Friday, October 31, 2008

Just One More Reason to Love SSIS

Alternate title for this post: "Is Sarah Palin BI?" But I didn't want to go there, and I'm sure you appreciate that.

But here in the US, the presidential election season is nearly over (just a few more days to go) and many people are getting sick and tired of listening to the candidates talk. But for the last few months (or years) they have been talking a lot, and people have been transcribing what they say for the press and for prosperity.

And someone (sadly I do not know who[1]) has taken those words, particularly the words of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, and run them through the text mining features of SQL Server Integration Services. And the UK IT news web site The Register has the scoop.

What's not to love? Politics, plus killer BI tools, plus dry British humor[2] is a surefire recipe for holiday laughs.

Happy Halloween!

[1] Although if the author of the SSIS package reads this and wants to share the DTSX with me, I would love to have it ;-)

[2] Or does that need to be "humour?"

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Join Me in Prague!

Earlier this week the MCT team here at Microsoft Learning went live with the MCT Summit 2009 web site. There's information about the two currently scheduled summits:

  • Prague, Czech Republic - Jan 6, 2009 - Jan 9, 2009
  • Redmond, Washington, US - Jan 20, 2009 - Jan 23, 2009

We're also going to be announcing a 3rd Asia-Pacific region event soon, but the dates and location aren't yet finalized.

But the excitement here[1] today is that I will be attending the Prague event. I wasn't sure until today if I would be able to make it to Prague, but everything has come together and I will be there representing Microsoft Learning in my new Quality Architect role.

And for my own personal pleasure, I'm hoping to do a repeat performance of my "SSIS deep dive" session from February's MCT Summit event in Redmond, and present an "Everything you ever wanted to know about SSIS but were afraid your students would ask" technical session in addition to my Microsoft Learning presentations. The Summit schedule is still up in the air, but even if I can't get on the official schedule I will still do the session if I can find a room and an audience.[2] If you're interested, let me know early, ok?

I'll see you there!

[1] "Here" in this case is my office in New York - I'm sure that everyone at Microsoft Learning in Redmond is probably saying "Oh no, not that guy again!" ;-)

[2] This is what happened in Redmond at the 2008 MCT Summit. Everything came together at the last minute, so there was no way to get on the real schedule, but we ended up with a few dozen MCTs who stuck around for almost four hours of SSIS goodness, even though Microsoft was supplying MCTs with free drinks and food on the other side of town, How's that for commitment?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Certification Offers at PASS

Are you going to be at the PASS Community Summit 2008 conference next month in Seattle? I am, and you should be too. Why? Well, if the opportunity to attend amazing sessions and rub shoulders with members of the SQL Server product group and SQL Server MVPs wasn't enough, Microsoft Learning is offering a variety of certification-related offers to help PASS attendees get certified on SQL Server 2005 or SQL Server 2008.

First of all, there are two discounts offers available.

  1. If you're among the first 100 to register for an exam, you get the exam for free. This offer has been published for a while, so act now for a chance to get this 100% discount.
  2. If you're not among the first 100, you still get a 25% discount on any exams you want to take during the conference - just register and go.

Next, Microsoft Learning is also offering a set of exam prep sessions for PASS attendees who want an extra edge when taking a certification exam. Here's the tentative schedule (it's really unlikely that this is going to change, but you know how conferences are - you should always check the schedule on site once the event begins) for the exam prep sessions:

  • Tuesday, November 18                           
    • 10:15am - 70 432 TS: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Installation and Maintenance
    • 1:00pm - 70 431 TS: Microsoft SQL Server 2005 - Implementation and Maintenance
    • 2:45pm - 70-447  UPGRADE: MCDBA Skills to MCITP DBA by Using Microsoft SQL Server 2005
  • Wednesday, November 19
    • 10:15am - 70 448 TS: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Business Intelligence Development and Maintenance
    • 1:30pm - 70 445 TS: Microsoft SQL Server 2005 - Business Intelligence
    • 3:00pm - 70 455  Upgrade: Transition your MCITP Business Intelligence Developer Skills to MCITP Business Intelligence Developer 2008
    • 4:30pm - Cert 101
  • Thursday, November 20
    • 10:15am - 70 432 TS: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Installation and Maintenance  (repeat)
    • 1:30pm - 70 450 PRO: Designing, Optimizing and Maintaining a Database Server Infrastructure using Microsoft SQL Server 2008          
    • 3:00pm - 70 453 Upgrade: Transition your MCITP Database Administrator Skills to MCITP Database Administrator 2008

As you can probably guess, I'm going to be presenting the three BI exam sessions on Wednesday. They asked me "can you do two?" and I said "no, but I can do three!" The other exam prep sessions are going to be delivered by veteran MCTs Telmo Sampaio and Rob Boek, and the Cert 101 session is going to be delivered by none other than Microsoft Learning's own Gerry O'Brien. What's not to love?

So - if you're going to be at PASS and are thinking about getting certified on SQL Sever, don't miss these offers. And be sure to look me up during the conference. I'll be in the certification area on Wednesday, and will probably be hanging out in the Ask The Experts Lounge at least some of the time (I have so many questions! ;-) and who knows where else I'll be the rest of the time - just keep your eyes open and be sure to say hello.

SQL Server 2008 - Free with Classroom Training

Talk about synchronicity - the old and the new have come together with a great big bonus for SQL Server professionals who are seeking training on SQL Server 2008. Microsoft Learning[1] is teaming up with the SQL Server[2] team to give away free copies of SQL Server 2008 Standard Edition to people who attend instructor-led classroom training at a Microsoft Certified Partner for Learning Solutions (CPLS). Here's the deal:

1) Attend one of these classes at a participating CPLS between December 10, 2008 (when the courses start to become available) and June 30, 2009:

  • 2778 - Writing Queries Using Microsoft® SQL Server™ 2008 Transact-SQL
  • 6158 - Updating Your SQL 2005 Skills to SQL Server 2008
  • 6231 - Maintaining a Microsoft® SQL Server™ 2008 Database
  • 6232 - Implementing a Microsoft® SQL Server™ 2008 Database
  • 6234 - Implementing and Maintaining Microsoft® SQL Server™ 2008 Analysis Services
  • 6235 - Implementing and Maintaining Microsoft® SQL Server™ 2008 Integration Services
  • 6236 - Implementing and Maintaining Microsoft® SQL Server™ 2008 Reporting Services
  • 6317 - Upgrading Your SQL Server 2000 Skills to SQL Server 2008

2) Get SQL Server 2008:

  • SQL Server 2008 Standard Edition – Full software
  • 1 Client Access License (CAL)
  • 32 bit, 64 bit and IA64 versions included
  • Software will be English only at this point

Pretty simple, right? There are a few minor gotchas, but please don't let these stand in your way:

  • Each CPLS will decide whether or not they participate in this promotion campaign, so talk to your local CPLS and make sure they know about it and that they are participating.
  • This offer is only good while supplies last. Plan your training early!

And that's that. Call your local CPLS today and ask about SQL Server 2008 training. Tell them Matthew sent you. [3]


[1] This is the "new" part - I joined Microsoft Learning as a Senior Program Manager earlier this month, although I cannot take any credit for this cool promotion.

[2] This is the "old" part - I've loved SQL Server since forever.

[3] And no, I don't get any kickbacks. How unfair is that? ;-)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Holy VHDs Batman!

Ok, color me impressed. I'm watching today's PDC keynote and just saw that Windows 7 can natively:

  • Mount VHD files as disks
  • Create fixed size or dynamic VHDs
  • Boot from Windows 7 VHDs

Holy crap. That last one totally blows me away - the ability to natively boot from a VHD file to test a virtual machine (and the software it runs) without a host OS sucking down resources. Oh yeah!

Now if they just expand the mounting support to also include standard ISO images, I'll be the happiest geek on the block.

it's not BI, but I'm darned excited!

A Free Font of Wisdom

One of my Facebook friends (hi Julie!) posted this morning asking for advice on where to find good free fonts. I replied pointing her to one site where I have found many good fonts, and another friend responded with three more. Here's the list:

I know that this isn't BI-related, but I'll bet I'm not the only person who looks for cool and interesting fonts from time to time. And even if I am, now I know where to find a list of links. ;-)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Teaser from PDC: SQL Services

The core of the PDC keynote has been about Windows Azure, the newly announced "Cloud OS" that Microsoft is showing off. Although this is neat and all, I tend to think of myself as a "data guy" so I've just been nodding and smiling.

Until a few minutes ago, when Bob Muglia presented this slide:

SQL Services - Bob Muglia PDC SLide

You're probably aware already of SQL Server Data Services. This is a new announcement about the evolution of SSDS, named simply SQL Services. This is a cloud-based service that includes core RDBMS functionality but also analysis, data mining, reporting and ETL. Now that made me sit up and pay attention. (And start typing ;-)

One thing that caught my ear, however, is that while SQL Server Analysis Services and SQL Server Reporting Services were both mentioned by name, SQL Server Integration Services was not. Instead Bob Muglia simply talked about ETL, not SSIS.

What does this mean? Who knows. I could just be focusing on a trivial oversight (I often forget to mention things when I'm on stage, so I know how this works) but I think it will be interesting to see how this plays out. Stay tuned!

Manowar Metal Server 2008 CTP

If you've read my blog with any degree of regularity over the past few years, you will probably know that I am a fan of the heavy metal band Manowar. Their music is a major source of inspiration in my life, giving me the "warrior spirit" to face head-on the challenges that life brings[1]. But you may not quite understand why.

Well, now you can!

Manowar has just released the trailer for their soon-to-be-released Magic Circle Festival Volume II 2-DVD set. I attended this festival in Bad Arolsen, Germany back in July, and have been waiting for the DVD ever since. It will be released one month from today on November 27th, and you can preorder it at Manowar's online store for just $40.

So if you are looking for a little inspiration in your life, or if you just want to know what the heck Matthew has been talking about all these years, now is your chance.[2] Preorder today!

Edit: And you can also view a high-quality, full screen version of the trailer here.

[1] And it's amazing music too. The inspiration wouldn't quite be the same without the divine vocals, the screaming guitar, the pounding drums and the driving bass.

[2] And before you ask, no, they don't pay me anything.

iWindows 7 Surface Phone?

I'm not attending the PDC this year, and I must admit that I'm more than a little jealous of my friends and colleagues who are in Los Angeles at the conference this week.[1] I've been following some of the news from the pre-conference online. And one InfoWorld article had a quote that caught my eye. The article itself is about Microsoft opening up the Surface SDK, which is pretty cool in and of itself, but towards then end there was this quote from a Forrester researcher:

"What the iPhone, the Surface, and Windows 7 all have in common is that they are the vanguard of the next major wave of human/technology interaction."

Ok, I get the iPhone and Surface part here - they both have touch-driven interfaces that move beyond what we've seen before in consumer devices - but what about Windows 7? What features is Windows 7 going to include that justifies a market analyst including it in the same category as the Surface and the iPhone for human/technology interaction?

Microsoft has been playing Windows 7 pretty close to the vest, and this week's PDC is likely to be the first time that many people outside of Microsoft get to see it. I suppose that now that I am working for Microsoft[2] I could download and install it, but honestly I have too many other things to get done. So for now I'll just keep watching the press.

And now that this tidbit has piqued my interest, I will definitely be watching the PDC keynote in two hours. You should too.

[1] Although when I learned that it was Ozzie and not Ozzy delivering the keynote with Bob Muglia, I was a bit less disappointed to not be there. Ray just can't hit those high notes the same way...

[2] Three weeks today!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

T-SQL Fundamentals is (Almost) Here!

Not too long ago I posted about Itzik Ben-Gan's excellent book Inside Microsoft SQL Server 2005: T-SQL Querying and how valuable I've found it. Well, Itzik has just completed work on his next book: Microsoft SQL Server 2008 T-SQL Fundamentals.

This is a book for people who are new to SQL programming, which is an audience that Itzik has not tackled before. Now you might think that for someone who knows more about T-SQL that anyone else in the world, writing a beginners' book should be about as difficult as sleepwalking, but this is not the case. In a recent post to the private SQL Server newsgroup for MCTs[1] Itzik had this to share:

“I always wanted to write a book about T-SQL Fundamentals, but kept postponing it until I felt I acquired enough knowledge and teaching experience to write it. Well, you never feel you have enough knowledge especially with a language and a model that are so deep, but at least enough to make a decent effort. Some may think that writing a Fundamentals book is easier than writing an advanced one, but I think it's actually the other way around, especially with SQL. Target audience for advanced books is less prone to be misled and mainly need their gaps to be filled. It's a big responsibility to teach people fundamentals, and that's one of the reasons I waited so long.”

How cool is that? Even though I don't think I'm the target audience for this book, I am definitely going to get a copy. As a trainer I'm always looking for better ways to explain core concepts, and T-SQL has enough difficult concepts that I am sure to pick up a pointer or two (or two hundred) from this book.

The book is scheduled to be released on October 22 and you can pre-order it today. So what are you waiting for?

[1] Yes, I asked his permission before posting this quote here. ;-)

Silverlight 2.0 RTM!

This is a little far from the usual BI topics, but I think it's pretty exciting regardless. Microsoft Silverlight 2.0 has[1] been released. You can download the bits and the development tools on the official Silverlight web site. There is also a great blog post from Scott Guthrie that describes the 2.0 platform and lots of resources that are available to Silverlight developers.

I don't know about you, but as a developer who has to play in the UI tier occasionally, this is the release I've been waiting for. Check it out!

[1] Finally! I can't remember the last time there was a product that I'd been hearing about and seeing so much of for so long before it was released.