Book: Pro SQL Server Disaster Recovery – James Luetkehoelter

I caught up with James Luetkehoelter at the PASS Summit in Germany a few months back. He sent me a copy of his new book from APress: Pro SQL Server Disaster Recovery.

I managed to finish reading it while heading back from CodeCampSA in Adelaide today (which was a good solid event again – excellent work Peter Griffiths!). I quite enjoyed the book and I like James' writing style. It's quite conversational and I could hear him talking to me as I read it.

The content is a pretty solid coverage of backup/recovery, mirroring, clustering, snapshots, disaster recovery planning, etc. I would have to say I wouldn't agree with everything James said in the book (he mentions that a number of his colleagues wouldn't anyway) but overall it's pretty solid common sense.

I did find a few copy-edit problems that I don't normally see on APress books. That puzzled me. For example, knowing how to restore a master database is an important skill. The book says "just enter the commands in figure 3.9" but figure 3.9 is a different version of the screenshot from figure 3.7 and nothing to do with the master database. Fortunately, these sorts of things were few and far between and didn't detract much from the overall book.

Recommended! (particularly for those wanting more of a discussion on "what" to do and "why", rather than "how").

 

Finally – A Compelling Demonstration of WPF in a Business Application

Those that I've discussed WPF with over the years will know that I think that Microsoft really struggles to demonstrate *business* value for WPF. I've attended many sessions where I've been shown things like the ability to show a video in the taskbar while you flip the taskbar around the screen 🙁

Congratulations to Billy Hollis for his WPF business application presentation done on Carl Franklin's DNR TV recently. If you've been wondering how WPF might add value to a business application, watch the first 24 minutes or so of this show:

http://perseus.franklins.net/dnrtvplayer/player.aspx?ShowNum=0115

Book: The Microsoft Data Warehouse Toolkit : Joy Mundy and Warren Thornthwaite

There are a number of key books that I've missed reading over the years, in areas that interest me. Recently, I've been fixing that. One that is always discussed is The Microsoft Data Warehouse Toolkit by Joy Mundy and Warren Thornthwaite from the Kimball Group.

I would have to say I enjoyed reading it. It is a large book at over 700 pages and a couple of inches thick so it took a while to get through.

I found the chapter "Designing the Business Process Dimensional Model" to be the most compelling part of the book. I can't say I totally agreed with all the advice in there but it does touch the key topics that need to be considered.

I did find the constant references throughout the book that provided mappings from the Microsoft technologies to the Kimball Method terminology quite irritating. The assumption is that you've already bought into the Kimball Method and are now moving to the Microsoft BI stack. While I'm sure that's valid for many, it's certainly not the case for many others that would be the target audience for the book. For those who aren't into the Kimball Method, the dual terminology adds an extra (and unnecessary) burden while reading the material.

The parts of the book I most struggled with were the areas where advice was given on relational database aspects of SQL Server and on hardware and system configuration. While I'm sure they felt it important to include information on this, it clearly isn't an area of expertise for the authors. I suspect it would have been better to have left this material out and referred instead to more targeted books on the topics.

While the "not-totally-Microsoft-oriented" approach of the book might be seen as a benefit, it's also a bit of a downside. I find that with quite a few books that I'm reading at present. I'm not sure if the authors would have written the same ideas and recommendations if their opinions weren't somewhat colored by their experience with other toolsets beforehand ie: if they were coming to the Microsoft BI toolset with fresh eyes.

Regardless, it is a classic book that's worth a look by anyone working in this area. The section on dimensional modelling and its terminology would make a good starting point for many wanting to get a handle on the most common concepts.

A SQL Server Meme

Well I was called out by Tibor Karaszi, so here goes:

How old were you when you first started programming?

I'd say I was about 19 when I started. I remember in 1976 that I was at University of Queensland. I was doing an honours degree in physics and maths and didn't have the slightest interest in those computing people that spent their lunch hours looking at great piles of 15×11 listings. By the next year, I was one of them.

How did you get started in programming?

I was doing RPG work on some mini-computers, some work on micros (first TRS-80 model) and some mainframe work (Fujitsu X8, IBM assembler and COBOL and JCL, etc.) I was completely fascinated in what you could do with each type of machine. I loved the interactivity of the micro. By 1978, I'd bought a Cromemco multi-user Z-80 system running MPM and with the old bank-switched memory. The biggest hassle was finding a hard drive (around 5 and 10 meg at the time) that would work reliably for any length of time.

What was your first language?

RPG

What was the first real program you wrote?

Must have been some RPG code for a client of the consultant I was working with/learning from.

What languages have you used since you started programming?

I'm guessing now (and am sure I'll miss some) but the ones I've used in any substantial amount would  be:

RPG, COBOL, Assembler, Pascal, Modula 2, C, C#, C++, Basic (many variations), SQL, SPL, Algol, Simula 

What was your first professional programming gig?

It'd be RPG coding for a local consultancy.

If you knew then what you know now, would you have started programming?

Yes

If there is one thing you learned along the way that you would tell new developers, what would it be?

Have something passionate that you're working on all the time, even if it isn't what you do for a living.

What’s the most fun you’ve ever had … programming?

As Tibor mentioned, it would have been the voyage of discovery in the early days. However, the playing around I did with operating system internals while working on MPE for HP was really fascinating. 

Who are you calling out?

Peter DeBetta, Kevin Kline, Craig Utley, Fernando Guerrero 

 

SQL Server 2008 Whitepapers starting to appear

Our team have been working on a number of whitepapers for SQL Server 2008. On of the first of these out the door is Itzik Ben-Gan's new paper on the T-SQL enhancements. It's great reading and can be found at:

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-gb/library/cc721270(SQL.100).aspx

I got to work with Ron Talmage on the new partitioning whitepaper. Watch for it soon too.

PASS Summit Sessions Appearing

I had a note from Bill Graziano this morning telling me that our spotlight sessions for the PASS Summit in Seattle in November have been posted, along with details of some of the other sessions. I'm really looking forward to the summit this year as I had to miss TechEd at the last minute. Details are here:

http://summit2008.sqlpass.org/spotlight-sessions.html

http://summit2008.sqlpass.org/program-sessions.html

 

BI Databases and Table Prefixes

I know this post has the potential for religious-level debate but it's time to make it anyway.

The more I've been working with Analysis Services lately, the more it grates on me that the BI community still seem to be the last ones hanging onto table prefixes. They're not doing "tblSomeTable" but they are using "dim", "fact", etc.

Hasn't the time for this long gone now?

Most of the argument seems to be about finding tables in a list of tables. You could do that via schemas if you really wanted to. But as Adam Machanic pointed out recently, from 2005 onwards many-to-many dimensions blur these lines anyway.

Is it time for the prefixes to go?

OT: Crocodiles know much more than we think

A few weeks ago I managed to catch the tail end of the reptiles series that Sir David Attenborough created. If you have a spare 3 1/2 minutes, take a look at this video: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/tvradio/programmes/lifeincoldblood/video.shtml?licbtt08

People seem to think crocodiles are cold, unintelligent eating machines. This video clearly shows they doing something that I'd suggest that more than 99% of humans couldn't do, even with pen, paper and a calculator with weeks of notice and a library at their disposal. What fascinates me is how they sense when to do this, given the combination of events happens so infrequently. Yet they arrive and set aside their territorial squabbles for just a day or two at exactly the right time.

Crocodiles have always intrigued me. I grew up not too far from Steve Irwin's place at Beerwah. Whatever anyone ever thought of him, I found that if you watched him in action in person, I have never seen anyone more mesmerising.

Clearly, there's a lot more to this world that we don't understand yet. That's what I love about science. It's not the answers that are the best part, it's the questions. I sense that we know so very little as yet.