Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo L7310GW

Ali, my wife, picked up an Amilo L7310GW laptop computer (from www.fujitsu-siemens.com) for me today at the local supermarket. The Irish supermarkets are all trying to sell computers recently.

I was becoming tired of hiding in the ‘office’ (4th bedroom) with the desktop and not having the mobility despite having configured the whole house with a wireless network – including 2 original xboxs and a 360)

Imagine my frustration when I found the laptop could do everything except talk to the wireless network. It just refused to see anything. It got worse when I went surfing the web and discovered others with a similar problem.

Even some review sites downgraded their scores because of difficulty in getting the wifi to work. One even suggested ignoring the internal wifi, and buying a separate pcmcia card instead.

And then I came across a forum where one person noticed that the wireless network activated if he sent his laptop into hibernation and then woke it again.

Another site mentioned a hot key that enabled and disabled the wifi connectivity on a different model of Amilo.

And then I saw the light! The fn + F1 combination enabled and disabled the wifi. A simple 2 button key press and my network popped up. So easy … when one knows how.

Fujitsu-Siemens need to improve the documentation on this – including on their website. Soem of the most popular documentation on the site was on configuring the wifi but none of it clearly showed this on/off status for the wireless internals.

So after several hours of messing about, and worrying about returning the laptop, I can relax again and start to transfer my documents across to my new found mobility.

Training Days

In the bank where I work, there is a 6 week training program for all graduates joining the computer infrastucture or development teams. The attendees come from a mixture of both technical & non-technical degree courses, all who have shown an aptitude for technology.

From the database administration team, a mainframe colleague, Mark, and I were asked to present an Introduction to Databases to this group over a 3 day period. Previously this was done by outside computer training companies.

This was a whole new departure for out team. In the past, we would have only presented for a couple of hours on standards within the bank and to promote our own team.

It took a lot of effort on our part to be ready and when the first course completed yesterday, it was a huge relief to get the positive feedback from the graduates – though, we did learn from some mistakes along the way too.

It is nice to get the title of ‘Guest Lecturer’ in the local Institute of Technology.

Now we get to repeat it again in October & November.

Problems with SQL Server 2005 on Windows Vista Beta 2

I received the following question from a member of the SQL Server Ireland User Group (http://sql.mtug.ie) :
Has anybody tried this? I run a dev machine that was XP SP2 with SQL 2005 installed on it. When I upgraded to Vista (Probably should have done a clean install but you would think upgrade would be sorted) SQL 2k5 stopped working. Supposedly installing SP1 for SQL 2k5 will fix the issue but when I try to install the SP1 it cannot continue as it cannot authenicate with SQL…

I had hope that someone might have been able to give him some more positive news but the short answers appears to be NO!

SQL Server 2005 should be upgraded to Service Pack 1 BEFORE upgrading your machine to Windows Vista.

For more on the story see – http://www.crn.com/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=192201373

SQL Server LifeCycles

I have been asked by a number of people over the last few months about Microsoft support for the different versions of SQL Server.

This information is on Microsoft’s web site but it can be hard to find.

An explanation of the support lifecycle is found at http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?pr=lifecycle
The relevant support lifecycle dates for their server products, including SQL Server, is found at http://support.microsoft.com/gp/lifeselectserv

In brief, the important dates at present are :
– SQL Server 7 dropped out of mainstream support at the end of last year but has extended support until January 11th, 2011.
– SQL Server 2000 has mainstream support until April 8th, 2008 while extended us until April 9th, 2013.

Designing without DBAs

One of my duties is to review applications, that my employer would like to buy, from a database technical perspective. This may involve reviewing and comparing a number of competitor products. The best product for the business can sometimes be the worst for technical quality.

I continue to find the many development companies do not have a database administrator. A quick glance at the database schema is usually enough to identify potentially difficult products.

Application developers will know the .NET, Java, or whatever application language the use inside out but they can make very poor design decisions on the database ‘because it is only data’ after all.

However, it becomes very embarrassing when one, as a customer, has to explain to a development company why their application performs so badly. It get worse when one has to advise them on how these should be corrected.

Most obvious reasons are
1) Large CHAR fields (instead of VARCHARs)
2) Fetching large result sets from the database and applying changes at the application level in a loop (an application driven cursor over the network)
3) No primary keys
4) No indexes on foreign keys
5) Too many indexes (usually after having had none first)
6) Failure to bind variables
7) Failure to use the Query Analyser to review execution plan of large queries or stored procedures.

SQL Server and Windows come with excellent tools for assisting a developer in optimising their applications (Query Analyser, Profiler, Performance Monitor and Enterprise Manager).

As an ex-developer myself, I am still embarrassed at the basic mistakes that I made when writing SQL to the database.

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