SQL Server – Managing SQL Server in a global economic meltdown

I am delighted to have Quest UK’s Iain Kick to present on “Managing SQL Server in a global economic meltdown” next week.

IT departments don’t make money, they spend it. As times are tough it’s important we all find ways to spend less yet still do an effective job. After 5 years as a DBA and then 5 years spent meeting with hundreds of DBA’s, Sysadmins, Developers, Managers and general IT people working with SQL Server, Iain has identified some of the common tasks they could undertake to improve the performance, security and configuration of their environments with little or no cost to the business

He will present at our usual place in Microsoft Ireland’s Atrium building on September 28th from 18:30

Since 2005, Iain Kick has worked in the UK for Quest Software as a lead consultant on their SQL Server products – covering pre & post sales and consultancy on all things SQL Server. He presents at various SQL Server user groups and at SQL Bits around performance, configuration, security, disaster recovery and high availability of the SQL Server platform. Previously, he was a production SQL Server DBA for 5 years starting with Version 6.5. He is the current Editor in Chief of SQLServerPedia.

He is passionate about football, cricket and music and plays golf. He loves travel, and enjoys socialising a lot!

He can be found at

http://www.iainkick.com/

http://twitter.com/iainkick

Registration is free but mandatory on our website (

http://www.mtug.ie/Home/tabid/38/ctl/Details/Mid/369/ItemID/68/Default.aspx?ContainerSrc=[G]Containers/_default/No+Container)

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XBox 360 – Red Dead Redemption

While I have played Grand Theft Auto (1 & 4) from Rockstar before, I never really enjoyed these games and I expect nothing better from the Red Dead series. However, as a steady stream of glowing reviews appeared, I resolved to buy Red Dead Redemption and give it a go.

Quite simply, I could not put this game down; not until I completed it – including the 100% achievement. This games reeks of quality. Forget black and white, good and evil; this is all black and dark grey with smidgen of white around the edges.

From a gaming perspective, I suspect that replacing GTA’s automobiles with RD’s horses allowed Rockstar to build a much more immersive environment. No longer will your vehicle crash into a lamp post that pops up from nowhere due to the graphical draw distance; rather, the more leisurely horseback journey avoids pop-up and allows one to admire the world around you.

I happily rode from the towns out into the wilderness and ‘moseyed’ around the world. There were many memorable moments – such as seeing an agitated cowboy jump off his horse and run into hiding; I went to assist him, only to have him berate me for my nosiness on finding him urinating against a rock!

The missions were varied – chases, bounty hunting, cleaning out gang hideouts, ambushes, animal hunting, driving wagons or riding shotgun, trick shooting, herding, rescuing, escorting, capturing, gathering, skinning, & lots of different shooting challenges. Mini games of poker, blackjack, breaking horses, 5 finger fillet, & arm-wrestling are also included. Random events occur all the time that are neither part of the side quests nor the main story; life continues to go on whether you decide to take action or not, good or bad. Trains, stage coaches and upgrading your campsite allow one to fast travel between points.

As a parent, I got rid of this game as soon as I completed it. The story contains many, many choices where the axiom “the lesser of two evils” applies and many of the characters are morally repugnant people. On numerous occasions, you are presented with the opportunity to remove a thoroughly nasty person, only to find that you have helped another to replace him in all his nastiness – “the King is dead, long live the King”. While this makes a very compelling story, it is not one that I wanted to discuss with the children … yet.

SQL Server – Database Mirroring

In the past, I was involved in implementing Log Shipping, Microsoft Clustering, Veritas Clustering, VMWare ESX Virtualisation, and Replication for different SQL Server systems. All of these provide the comfort of higher availability (HA) that a modern business requires.

At the last MVP Summit, my SQL Server colleagues were adamant that Database Mirroring was the best HA solution available … for dummies. Many of these colleagues were consultants who provide their services to small business that simply could not afford to retain a full time database administrator.

For these MVPs, simplicity was the key feature of any high HA solution. Database Mirroring delivered this and has become a facility that they and their customers depend on.

Another key feature is that Database Mirroring is supported in SQL Server Standard Edition and this dramatically reduces that cost of an HA solution. Many HA solutions require expensive enterprise software.

I found a rather good article on Database Mirroring from GRE Solutions Limited on their website (http://www.gre-sqlserver-solutions.com/mirroring.html)

An important note is that while Database Mirroring keeps both servers in synch, the databases on the second server are constantly restoring from the primary server and are not available for use while mirroring is enabled.

Last week, I finally implemented Database Mirroring, on a small database server that had both a primary and standby server running SQL Server standard edition.

While it was easy enough to do, it was not as easy as the documentation implied. I got the following message repeatedly:

Msg 1418, Level 16, State 1, Line 1
The server network address “TCP://myserver.domain.domain.domain.com:5022” can not be reached or does not exist. Check the network address name and reissue the command.

Microsoft describe the problem in an MSDN blog (http://blogs.msdn.com/b/grahamk/archive/2008/12/08/database-mirroring-error-1418-troubleshooter.aspx)

When I could not get it working through the wizards, I switched to the Transact-SQL to run checks to find where things had gone awry and enable mirroring there.

The following MSDN articles were immensely helpful (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms179306.aspx & http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms175876.aspx).

Now that it is working, I hope to roll it out to other SQL Servers that are neither clustered nor virtualised in my organisation but have a standby server.

Footnote – Database Snapshot is a feature that can be implemented with Database Mirroring when using SQL Server Enterprise Edition. While Database Mirroring does not allow you to access the data on the standby server, Database Snapshot allows one to create a virtual copy of the database at a particular time that is available for use on the standby server.

XBox 360 – The New Slim Edition

There are 4 Xbox in the Flanagan household : The original launch Core (i.e. no hard drive) Edition, a Premium (i.e. 20GB Hard Drive), plus both Black & “Resident Evil 5” Red Elites with 120GB Hard Drives. All of these currently have 120GB hard drives and are internet enabled through 802.11b wireless network cards.

The Core edition was nearly 5 years old (bought at launch in December 2005) and, in that time, was replaced or repaired 4 times under warranty. Three of these were the infamous “Red Ring of Death” (RRoD) or “Three Red Lights” (TRL). Now, however, the warranty had expired and the next repair would cost.

However, my family did a trade in replacing this Core for a new XBox 360 Slim on my birthday. This newer model comes with 5 USB ports (2 in front & 3 at the back), internal 250GB hard drive,internal 802.11n wireless network card, black headset, and a gorgeous gloss all black controller (the older elite controllers were matt two-tone black & grey).

The machine is slightly smaller than previous versions. And is so quiet when compared to it’s older brethren.

The power and disk tray buttons react to the slightest touch & provide satisfying auditory feedback.

I understand that this XBox will provide enough power to support the Kinect camera without requiring a separate Power Supply Unit, unlike the original. I must remember to add the Kinect to the Christmas Shopping List.

Because this was a trade-in, I am not in a position to write about the data transfer experience.

One important note is that there are no slots for the original XBox 360 Memory Cards and the whole family is in the process of switching to 16GB USB memory keys. XBox is very particular about these and several different keys failed to work. However, the Kingston DataTraveler C10 with a 16GB capacity worked perfectly and could be found for less than €25 on eBay (including shipping).

Another concern to notes is around the Download Content (DLC) that you might have accumulated. My family consumes 20GB of internet bandwidth in a typical month and my monthly 40GB limit is sufficient. However, I almost exceeded my broadband limit before I had replaced a quarter of the download content collected over the years. Be warned – those Call of Duty & Halo maps plus the Fallout 3 expansions all add up.

In summary, … Hey, it’s an XBox … but it looks & sounds gorgeous and the jet engine noise is banished from the parent cave. Thanks, Microsoft.

Footnote – In addition to the Core, the Premium was replaced once under warranty. No problems at all with either Elite.

Cork Dev Day

The Cork Area Microsoft Technology User Group has invited me to present on the Incidental DBA at their Cork Dev Day on October 13th. This idea of presenting a session focussed on the windows developer or administrator who has just been “volunteered” as the SQL Server database administrator was not mine but has proven to be very successful session, including at tech & dev days in Dublin, Belfast, & Galway last year

Other presentations at the Cork Dev Day include Azure and Windows Mobile 7, both of which are hot topics at the moment and are likely to be well attended.

Details of the event are sparse at the moment but can be found at: http://www.mtug.ie/UserGroups/Cork/tabid/78/ctl/Details/Mid/405/ItemID/70/Default.aspx?ContainerSrc=[G]Containers/_default/No+Container

You can register there too. But remember to book early to avoid disappointment … & it is free.

Guide to Parenting

I do not know where this came from but those parents who read it alternated between uncontrolled laughter & weaping, so it must be true.

14 SIMPLE TESTS BEFORE YOU DECIDE TO HAVE CHILDREN.

Test 1 – Preparation

Women: To prepare for pregnancy:-

1. Put on a dressing gown and stick a beanbag down the front.

2. Leave it there.

3. After 9 months remove 5% of the beans.

Men: To prepare for children:-

1. Go to a local chemist, tip the contents of your wallet onto the counter and tell the pharmacist to help himself

2. Go to the supermarket. Arrange to have your salary paid directly to their head office.

3. Go home. Pick up the newspaper and read it for the last time.

Test 2 – Knowledge

Find a couple who are already parents and berate them about their methods of discipline, lack of patience, appallingly low tolerance levels and how they have allowed their children to run wild. Suggest ways in which they might improve their child’s sleeping habits, toilet training, table manners and overall behavior.

Enjoy it. It will be the last time in your life that you will have all the answers.

Test 3 – Nights

To discover how the nights will feel:

1. Walk around the living room from 5pm to 10pm carrying a wet bag weighing approximately 4 – 6kg, with a radio turned to static (or some other obnoxious sound) playing loudly.

2. At 10pm, put the bag down, set the alarm for midnight and go to sleep.

3. Get up at 11pm and walk the bag around the living room until 1am.

4. Set the alarm for 3am.

5. As you can’t get back to sleep, get up at 2am and make a cup of tea.

6. Go to bed at 2.45am.

7. Get up again at 3am when the alarm goes off.

8. Sing songs in the dark until 4am.

9. Put the alarm on for 5am. Get up when it goes off.

10. Make breakfast.

Keep this up for 5 years. LOOK CHEERFUL.

Test 4 – Dressing Small Children

1. Buy a live octopus and a string bag.

2. Attempt to put the octopus into the string bag so that no arms hang out.

Time Allowed: 5 minutes.

Test 5 – Cars

1. Forget the BMW. Buy a practical 5-door wagon.

2. Buy a chocolate ice cream cone and put it in the glove compartment. Leave it there.

3. Get a coin. Insert it into the CD player.

4. Take a box of chocolate biscuits; mash them into the back seat.

5. Run a garden rake along both sides of the car.

Test 6 – Going For a Walk

Wait

Go out the front door

Come back in again

Go out

Come back in again

Go out again

Walk down the front path

Walk back up it

Walk down it again

Walk very slowly down the road for five minutes.

Stop, inspect minutely and ask at least 6 questions about every piece of used chewing gum, dirty tissue and dead insect along the way.

Retrace your steps

Scream that you have had as much as you can stand until the neighbours come out and stare at you.

Give up and go back into the house.

You are now just about ready to try taking a small child for a walk.

Test 7

Repeat everything you say at least 5 times.

Test 8 – Grocery Shopping

1. Go to the local supermarket. Take with you the nearest thing you can find to a pre-school child – a fully grown goat is excellent. If you intend to have more than one child, take more than one goat.

2. Buy your weekly groceries without letting the goat(s) out of your sight.

3. Pay for everything the goat eats or destroys.

Until you can easily accomplish this, do not even contemplate having children.

Test 9 – Feeding a 1 year-old

1. Hollow out a melon

2. Make a small hole in the side

3. Suspend the melon from the ceiling and swing it side to side

4. Now get a bowl of soggy cornflakes and attempt to spoon them into the swaying melon while pretending to be an aeroplane.

5. Continue until half the cornflakes are gone.

6. Tip the rest into your lap, making sure that a lot of it falls on the floor.

Test 10 – TV

1. Learn the names of every character from the Wiggles, Barney, Teletubbies and Disney.

2. Watch nothing else on television for at least 5 years.

Test 11 – Mess

Can you stand the mess children make? To find out:

1. Smear peanut butter onto the sofa and jam onto the curtains

2. Hide a fish behind the stereo and leave it there all summer.

3. Stick your fingers in the flowerbeds and then rub them on clean walls. Cover the stains with crayon. How does that look?

4. Empty every drawer/cupboard/storage box in your house onto the floor & leave it there.

Test 12 – Long Trips with Toddlers

1. Make a recording of someone shouting ‘Mummy’ repeatedly. Important Notes: No more than a 4 second delay between each Mummy. Include occasional crescendo to the level of a supersonic jet.

2. Play this tape in your car, everywhere you go for the next 4 years.

You are now ready to take a long trip with a toddler.

Test 13 – Conversations

1. Start talking to an adult of your choice.

2. Have someone else continually tug on your shirt hem or shirt sleeve while playing the Mummy tape listed above.

You are now ready to have a conversation with an adult while there is a child in the room.

Test 14 – Getting ready for work

1. Pick a day on which you have an important meeting.

2. Put on your finest work attire.

3. Take a cup of cream and put 1 cup of lemon juice in it

4. Stir

5. Dump half of it on your nice silk shirt

6. Saturate a towel with the other half of the mixture

7. Attempt to clean your shirt with the same saturated towel

8. Do not change (you have no time).

9. Go directly to work

You are now ready to have children. ENJOY!!

SQL Server Software Licensing

Recently, I have been involved in a number of software licensing reviews. My focus has been limited to database software as well as some middleware components. Microsoft was the first of these and, to be honest, I thought that it was a real chore at the time … but my opinion change rapidly once the other reviews started.

Microsoft provide some items to assist you in both understanding their licensing model and reviewing your software estate.

The Microsoft SQL Server Licensing Guide (http://download.microsoft.com/download/6/F/8/6F84A9FE-1E5C-44CC-87BB-C236BFCBA4DF/SQLServer2008_LicensingGuide.pdf) is an extremely useful document that takes you through the different licensing models, versions of SQL Server, and high availability configurations and carefulyl describes how these impact on licensing. It is an excellent place to start when reviewing their database software licensing.

The second item is the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit (http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/solutionaccelerators/dd537566.aspx). This tool allows you to identify where you database servers are and who is accessing them to help get a count of both servers and clients, allowing you to review different licensing models.

Be aware that not all SQL Servers found have to be licensed. An audit can highlight databases that are embedded in both Microsoft development and server applications where the application included the right to use the database (provided that it was used for nothing else). For example, Sharepoint includes SQL Server and, as long as this SQL Server is only used for Sharepoint, does not require a licence.

Buck Woody covers Licensing in his blog (http://sqlblog.com/blogs/buck_woody/archive/2009/11/26/the-magical-world-of-sql-server-licensing.aspx) while Mike Walsh debunks a lot of the SQL Server licensing myths on his blog (http://www.straightpathsql.com/archives/2010/07/sql-server-licensing-or-tax-forms/)

Xbox – Mass Effect 2

The boys and I are working our way through Mass Effect 2 at the moment. Bioware continue to demonstrate their reputation as one of the top computer “Role Playing Games” (RPG) companies in the world with a decent plot and great character development involving not just your own character but those non-player characters around you. A really nice feature was that choices made in the original game carried over into the sequel and you see these effects at different stages throughout the game, meeting many people that you interacted with before.

With clever use of mini missions and mining exploration, Bioware manage to convey an impression of a much wider open space within to roam than is actually there

The environment is beautifully drawn but, like the original game, you can get stuck in the scenery in some places and graphical clipping can be annoying in others. It can be frustrating that the game can appear on rails with a single path through the mission and you cannot fall off edges even.

The dialogue tree is improved over the original. The use of key words that describe a sentiment when choosing a dialogue path is a nice feature as it allows for a more concise tree. The use of left & right trigger for bonus paragon & renegade points during the dialogue keeps you on your toes.

No, I have not finished the game yet; I am about half way through. With 35 hours complete to date, I like to do one one of the larger missions or a couple of smaller missions during a single session. More more than this and I am sure that my wife will look for my replacement. I do find myself reluctant to put the game down.

As a parent, this is a game that I am happy to let the kids play. In the original, some atrociously bad US journalism created inappropriate hype around the romance tree. This sequel includes further romance plots for your character.

DeveloperDeveloperDeveloper Dublin

DeveloperDeveloperDeveloper (DDD) is finally coming to Dublin this October. Previous DDD days in Galway (aka Craggy Island event) and Belfast were well attended.

The DDD Dublin event is being held in the National Digital Research centre (NDRC) alongside Guinness on Saturday, October 9th. This is an all day event and is free; with lunch included.

Details and registration can be found at http://developerdeveloperdeveloper.com/dddie10/Default.aspx

While I submitted SQL Server sessions on both the Incidental DBA & on Indexing, it is up to the community (aka YOU !!! ) to decide which topics are of interest or not. Voting on the agenda is not open yet but will be available soon. However, even at this stage, please provide feedback on the topics; we speakers cannot improve our presentations without the help of feedback. You can even suggest topics that you would like to hear.(Speaking of previous feedback … in Scotland, the written Niall is pronounced Neil; while I am of Scottish descent, I do not require feedback about the Irish pronunciation !!! )

There are 38 sessions submitted from 20 speakers so far. So, there should be something for everyone

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