Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Best of 2013

As 2013 comes to a close I wanted to highlight some of what I think are the best of 2013 that I enjoyed outside of work.

Best Movies
  1. Gravity
  2. Fast & Furious 6
  3. Man of Steel
  4. Pacific Rim
  5. The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug
  6. Iron Man 3
  7. Thor: Dark World
  8. Lincoln
  9. American Hustle
  10. The World's End

2013 was a great year for movies and by far, Gravity was the best of the year. I was able to see Gravity in a large format digital theater with 3D and Dolby Atmos, which made for an amazing experience that I felt like I was floating right alongside Sandra and George in space! FF6 extended that franchise even more and has me looking forward to FF7 in 2015. Not sure what the death of Paul Walker with do to the series future, but I am happy to see that they are going to push ahead and finish it and release it in April of 2015. Man of Steel was the best of the superhero movies in 2013, and is the first time a good Superman movie has been done since 1978.

Best TV
  1. Orphan Black
  2. Doctor Who
  3. Game of Thrones
  4. The Walking Dead
  5. The Goldbergs
  6. Big Bang Theory
  7. Almost Human
  8. Broadchurch
  9. Masters of Sex
  10. The Fall

TV did have some stand out new shows this year, but the new thing for me this year was discovering 2 shows and binge watching them both online. The first one that I binge watched was Orphan Black and it shot straight up to the top of my list as the best TV show of 2013! They have done a great job in the first season of keeping us going with the whole clone storyline, if you have not seen this show from BBC America yet, then you should. Unfortunately it is not yet available on any streaming services, I ended up buying the first season from Amazon Video and watched all 10 episodes in less than 1 day, that is how hooked I was! The other one that I discovered is The Fall, which a serial killer mini-series starring Gillian Anderson (The X-Files) set in Northern Ireland and with Gillian doing her Brit accent (she lived in Britain early in her life and moved back after The X-Files finished). The Goldbergs is one of the funniest shows that I have seen since Big Bang Theory, and most of that is probably because of the setting in the early-mid 1980's. Growing up in the 80's, this show just brings back so many memories, they have done their homework and you just have to look around at the props on the set to see that. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. did not make my top 10, mainly because it just didn't live up to the hype, I have high hopes that it can do better in 2014.

Best Music

I don't listen to a lot of new music, but the one album that I played over and over in 2013 was Random Access Memories from Daft Punk. It has been amazing to watch them change their sound over and over and evolve from just another electronic group to a true musical group. The mix of 70's funk/disco to their music made this by far my favorite album of the year. Most of the rest are just a bunch of individual singles from different artists (JT, Katy Perry, Lorde, Miley Cyrus, etc.), but Random Access Memories was the best overall album. The rest of what I listened to in 2013 were soundtracks from all of the movies listed above and more. I think that my favorite soundtrack of the year would have to be Man of Steel. I never thought that anyone could make a better Superman theme or soundtrack than John Williams, but Hans Zimmer did for Superman what he did for Batman and created some amazing new themes. The themes in Man of Steel were so alien sounding, but yet heroic and strong at the same time, which captures exactly what Superman is.

Best Gadgets

For best tech gadget of 2013, it would be the new Apple iPad Mini with Retina. I was a long time full-size iPad user, but I found that it was too big to travel with and when Apple finally announced the new iPad Mini with Retina display, then I decided it was time to switch. I love how small and light it is and I find myself taking it with me everywhere. I also made sure to get mine with Verizon 4G, which I also had on my previous iPad and would never consider getting a tablet without 4G. It's just far too convenient to use it anywhere and not have to worry about finding wi-fi. I also love my MacBook Air that I got at the very beginning of the year, the only issue now is the iPad Mini has become my go to device, so the Air doesn't get a lot of use. I also made the big switch from iPhone to Windows Phone in 2013, when the Nokia Lumia 1020 came out. I had been thinking about this switch for awhile and when iOS7 didn't make the big change that I was hoping from I knew it was time to switch. The 41MP camera on the Lumia 1020 is amazing and I find myself taking a lot more pictures now. The Windows Phone 8 OS took some getting used to, but now I can do everything that I need to and paired with my iPad Mini, I get the best of both worlds. A couple of other great gadgets that I use with both the iPad Mini and the Lumia 1020 are the headsets, Bose QuietComfort 15 and Bluez AfterShokz. I use the Bose on the plane or anytime I need to use active noise cancelling, while the AfterShokz are great for in airport or office wear when I still want to hear what is going on around me. While I did get the new Xbox One, the verdict is still out on that one. I tried it connected to my Dish Network DVR, but since it can't control everything on the box, just change channels it was very limiting since I do watch most TV from DVR, not live. And the voice commands that they keep boasting are still not there and I find myself yelling at it because it appears to not understand me most of the time. The new Kinect camera is amazing and works much better than the previous generation.

Best Enterprise Tech

And for something more related to my work and this blog, my favorite new enterprise tech that I haven't spent nearly enough time with this year, Microsoft's Power BI! I plan to spend a lot more time learning all of the features of Power BI and hope to post a bunch of blog posts about it, as I learn how to use it.

Thanks to everyone that reads my blog, and I hope you had a great 2013 and are looking forward to an awesome 2014!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Encryption in SQL Server (Part 1)

Recently I have been doing some work to add encryption to an existing SQL Server 2008R2 database for a client and I learned a lot about how TDE or Transparent Data Encryption works in SQL Server. The requirements for adding encryption in this case was that only certain columns in some tables of the databases would be encrypted, so I could not encrypt the entire database or tables in a database (this is possible in SQL Server though). Also one of the main requirements was to leave the datatype for the column that would be encrypted the same, and mask the data in that column. So, all of the actual encrypted columns would be new columns added to the appropriate tables. It was also required that the only way to access the decrypted values was by using new views that did the decryption.

With those requirements set I started to learn how to setup encryption in SQL Server and found many TechNet articles that helped me. To begin with some of the great resources for introduction to encryption in general are:
These posts helped me to get an idea of how best to setup the different keys/certificates that are required in SQL Server to make the encryption work and also provide the required security to lock down who could access the decrypted values. The important thing to realize about setting up encryption is that SQL Server is using a layered approach, you aren't just setting up one set of keys and then you are done. Instead you are setting up multiple keys that each use the previous key to build the next (see Encryption Hierarchy article for graphical representations of this).

In SQL Server you start with the Service Master Key (SMK) which is setup for your automatically when you install a SQL Server instance. This key is protected by the Windows OS itself using the Data Protection API.

The next layer of key is the Database Master Key (DMK), which is required on each database that you will be using encryption in. The DMK is created by issuing a command on the database you want to create it on.

   (SELECT * FROM sys.symmetric_keys WHERE symmetric_key_id = 101)
   PASSWORD = 'Ils20*(LKjqwnslqo372,cklweLKHJn'

In order to create the layers of keys required to actually do the encryption of your data you must have the DMK already created in each database. There can be only one DMK per database in SQL Server and it is protected using the password supplied and the Triple DES algorithm (AES_256 is used in SQL Server 2012 and above). Since automatic decryption of the DMK is required for use by other SQL Server commands, a copy of the DMK is also protected using the SMK and stored in the database it is created in along with the master database. This copy of the DMK is the one that can be updated easily as you move the database or it's backups from server to server and still allows you access to the encrypted data without requiring you to decrypt all of the contents and then re-encrypt them again using the new DMK. Updating the DMK is done with the ALTER MASTER KEY command (http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms186937(v=sql.105).aspx).

Since all encryption is dependent on both the SMK and DMK, it is also good practice to backup both of these keys to files for safe keeping, which can be done with 2 commands:

    TO FILE = 'C:\localhost_SMK.smk'
    ENCRYPTION BY PASSWORD = 'ADa329wopkj*&ER.slkqksl'

   TO FILE = 'C:\localhost_AdventureWorks_DMK.dmk'
   ENCRYPTION BY PASSWORD = 'U982LKJOWlkslpq&^@#lskjnkxOPx.w'

The password that is supplied with these BACKUP commands is only used to encrypt the files that are created on the file system. In order to restore these files, the appropriate passwords will be required, so they should be kept safe for future reference (as should all passwords created for these keys).

This will get your SQL Server instance and database all setup and ready to encrypt the actual data stored in them.

In my next post I will cover what Asymmetric Keys and Symmetric Keys are and how they are created and used in SQL Server to encrypt your data.

Friday, December 13, 2013

SQLSaturday #271 Albuquerque

I'm a bit late in getting the news out on my blog, but I will be presenting at SQLSaturday #271 in Albuquerque, NM on January 25th! I will be presenting my new "Master the Date Dimension Like a Time Lord" presentation that I did for the first time at PASS Summit 2013 as a Lightning Talk.

Now you will be able to see it as a full hour long session and dig into all the details on using a single script to create a Date Dimension that can cover all of the uses you can think of for a data warehouse! And yes, if you can't tell from the title of the session, there will be references to my current favorite TV show, Doctor Who mixed in! :)

Please register to attend SQLSaturday #271 and I'm looking forward to going into Albuquerque early to enjoy the area with my family and see all of you at the event on 1/25!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Denver SQL Server User Group Holiday Party

Instead of our normal monthly meeting next Thursday (12/19), the Denver SQL Server User Group will host a Holiday Networking Party sponsored by TekSystems at Great Northern Tavern (8101 East Belleview Avenue, Denver CO 80237). We will have limited space, so if you want to come you will need to RSVP at http://denversqlugholiday2013.eventbrite.com. The party will start at 5:30pm and go until we get kicked out of the room or run of things to talk about! There will be appetizers and a limited number of drink tickets as well as some prizes to give away. It will be a great time to get together and just talk about whatever we want to, no formal presentations, just food, drink and good company! :)

As a courtesy to others that may want to come, please only RSVP if you know you can attend and if you have RSVP'd and find that you can no longer attend, please cancel your RSVP via the EventBrite page.

Also, while I'm talking about DSSUG, just wanted to send out a quick thank you to everyone that used our PASS Summit 2013 registration discount code. The group will receive $250 from PASS because of the number of people that used the code for their registration to PASS Summit 2013! We will be sure to put that money to good use for the group in 2014. Keep your eyes out in 2014 for more of this type of registration discount code for other conferences.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Master the Date Dimension Like a Time Lord

Just finished presenting my "Master the Date Dimension Like a Time Lord" session as part of the Pragmatic Works free Training on the T's webinar series! Had a great crowd with lots of good questions and feedback along with some Doctor Who trivia as part of the pre-show. Couldn't resist the Doctor Who trivia as the presentation is themed around the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who, which just happened last Saturday!

Below is the link to download the slides and script, please feel free to use the script as you need to. There are a few things that have been pointed out about using NUMERICs instead of INTs, sorry those are leftovers from converting this script from Oracle to SQL Server.

The recorded version of the session is available here.

For those that are having issues with the iframe link above for the slide/script demo files, please try this link.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

More SSDT Changes

I just realized after an exchange on Twitter that I had not posted about the recent announcements about the recent changes to SSDT!

Previously I posted about the split of the Business Intelligence projects from SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT) into SSDT-BI when CTP1 of SQL Server 2014 was released in June. As I mentioned back then I thought this was a strange idea that SSDT needed to be split up this way since we had BIDS (Business Intelligence Development Studio) back in the SQL Server 2005/2008 days and when SQL Server 2012 was coming out they changed that name to SSDT and added the database projects to it as well as all of the BI projects (SSAS, SSIS and SSRS). Now, with SQL Server 2014 it looks like the teams at Microsoft have again decided that these tools need to be split up even with some of the database project functions being included with Visual Studio 2013 at release.

I don't know about any of the behind the scenes stuff that might be going on at Microsoft related to this, but just be aware with SQL Server 2014 there are 2 separate tools and neither of them will be included in the installer (at least as of the last few weeks of posts that I have seen on the Microsoft blogs). You will have to download SSDT and/or SSDT-BI separately from the web. Also there is even more confusion over what you are able to have integrated into the different versions of Visual Studio with Visual Studio 2013 now available.

To help clear up the picture a bit, check out this blog post from Matt Masson from the Microsoft SSIS team: http://www.mattmasson.com/2013/10/sql-server-data-tools-business-intelligence-downloads/. This picture should get much clearer in the next months as SQL Server 2014 is finally released. Also, here is a good post from the SQL Server Blog that also gives all of the download links for SSDT and SSDT-BI as it stands right now: http://blogs.technet.com/b/dataplatforminsider/archive/2013/11/13/microsoft-sql-server-data-tools-update.aspx.

As always I will keep up with all of the news around SSDT and SSDT-BI as I use those tools a lot today and I'm very curious how it will all work with SQL Server 2014 and on.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

STS-129 Tweet-Up 4th Anniversary

100_7481Today is the 4th anniversary of a very special opportunity that I was able to take part in thanks to NASA's community outreach program via Twitter. Back in 2009 when Twitter had been around for awhile, but not even close to the popularity it has today, I had heard about Twitter but wasn't too interested in it. That all changed when I heard about events being held to gather people that used Twitter to help spread the word about whatever the Tweet-Up sponsor invited them to. NASA had done a few of these Tweet-Ups for events, including going to Johnson Space Center to see Space Shuttle launches or communicate with International Space Station (ISS) crews. NASA was doing a fantastic job using all of the social media tools available to get those of us excited about space exploration to help spread the word and best thing was it was pretty much free advertising for an agency that keep getting it's budget reduced more and more each year. Also during this time the Space Shuttle program end had already announced, so it was important to capitalize on the last few manned space launches that would be going on until a decade or more in the US.

STS-129 was the designation for the launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis, on November 16, 2009 at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. I have always followed the space program and NASA, and still get very emotional about the Challenger and Columbia tragedies as I followed both of them, watching as many launches and landings live as I could (assuming they were being covered by news media of the time). When I heard that NASA was going to invite a group of Twitter users to Kennedy Space Center to witness the launch of Atlantis, I made sure I was signed up on Twitter and submitted the necessary details to NASA to be part of this event. I was shocked that I was selected from a group of hundreds, maybe even thousands of people who had entered for this random drawing. For this Tweet-Up NASA had selected a pretty small group as it was the first Tweet-Up that they were doing for a Space Shuttle launch.

What a lot of people didn't understand about being selected for this Tweet-Up is that NASA was not paying those that were selected, or were they covering any of our expenses to get to Florida or stay there for the multiple days that may be required if there were delays in the launch. But, they did provide us access to the facilities and people, including us being able to take pictures at the nearest that anyone not working for the Space Shuttle program is allowed on the day before a launch. That is where this picture that I have used as my profile picture on various online accounts for years was taken.

Steve and Atlantis

I was beyond excited the whole time that I was there. I had taken a few trips to Kennedy Space Center over the years, including a trip with my grandparents when I was 10 years old, but I never got to see a Space Shuttle launch in all of my trips. I tried to time trips in the past, but it never worked out. I was able to see an Atlas launch on one trip with the family, when I got up before dawn and drove out to an area that I heard had the best view of launches from the Cape Canaveral launch site. It was awesome to see that launch with my own eyes, but nothing compares to seeing a Space Shuttle launch.

As the launch morning came on November 16, 2009, I don't think that I slept much at all the night before and we had to get to a specified location to park our cars very early that morning and get on the bus that would get us to the press site. The launch was not until early afternoon, but we had to be onsite earlier since they lock down the area once it gets closer to launch. NASA has setup a tent for all of us to use for our computers with the NASA TV live feed being shown on multiple screens and a series of different speakers to help keep us occupied over the hours. It was extremely hard to stay in that tent though, knowing that a Space Shuttle was going to be launching soon! I took way too many pictures of the famous countdown clock that is there at the press site, but I knew that this would probably be the one and only chance I had to do this with the end of the Space Shuttle program coming and no clear picture what the future would be. As we got to within 30 minutes of the launch the tent was emptied and we all headed out to find the best spot to capture the moment. I debated if I was going to watch the launch through a camera viewfinder or try to just enjoy it with my eyes and ears. I decided to try and do a combination of both as much as I could. I spent some time trying to get some really good pictures as the engines started and then switched to video so that I could just let it run and watch it as well. It was even more awesome then I could have ever imagined and I still remember the delay in the sound and when it finally came how it almost physically knocked me back and I also remember all of the car alarms going off in the parking lot behind us afterwards as the sound echoed off of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB).


It was an experience that I will NEVER forget and I thank everyone at that worked in the NASA outreach team at the time for the opportunity to participate in this and help NASA as much as I could. I look back on it now it was the beginning of an amazing journey for me as I started to use Twitter more and more at that time and still do today. While I'm not on Twitter all of the time, like I used to be, I still enjoy using Twitter to keep up with people and events. And it also still allows me to stay in contact with many of the others that were also part of that same Tweet-Up and share the experience with others that participated in NASA Tweet-Ups after me.

Thanks Twitter and a big thanks to NASA, I will always be a life-long fan and support you in as many way as I can! Here is a link to the Flickr group that includes pictures from me and many of the other participants in the STS-129 Launch Tweet-Up.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Outstanding PASS Volunteer

Earlier this week I was notified that I had been selected as the Outstanding PASS Volunteer for November 2013! This award was a big surprise to me, since all of the other Board members for the Denver SQL Server User Group had secretly nominated me. I am very thankful for the recognition and hope that I can continue to contribute to the community in the future!

Looking back on the last couple of months I have been doing a lot in the community and hadn't really even realized it until this award got me thinking about it. From organizing our 2nd very successful SQLSaturday to speaking at PASS Summit 2013 for the first time along with being part of the Program Committee, volunteering to sit at our table for the Chapter Lunch, heading up a table at the Birds of a Feather lunch and also volunteering at the Community Zone. And on top of that all of the regular duties that go along with being a Chapter Leader for the Denver SQL Server User Group and speaking at as many events as I can. Makes me tired just thinking about all of it! But it is all worth it as I always get so much more back from the community for everything that I put in.

Thanks again to all of you that have helped me out and I will continue to contribute in as many ways as I can in the future!

If you are looking for ways that you can help out in the community, please fill out your myVolunteering profile on sqlpass.org. Just create a free account or login to your existing account and click on the myVolunteering button on your myPASS page (should be shown automatically when you login, or just click on the Home link in the top navigation). We are always looking for community members that are willing to help out and this will get your contact info to the correct people in PASS. Everyone should fill this out, even if you are already volunteering (yes, speaking at events does count as volunteering) today!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

SQLSaturday #237 - Charlotte BI Edition 2013

Sorry for the late post, but I'm still recovering from everything that has happened over the last 2 weeks and on top of that I'm still on the road.

Just as PASS Summit 2013 in Charlotte ended (see my post from earlier this week about everything that happened there), SQLSaturday #237 BI Edition began! SQLSaturday #237 was in Charlotte on 10/19, but the activities leading up to it started with the Speaker Dinner on Friday at Blackfinn in the EpiCentre shopping area. Even after going to many different places in Charlotte the previous week I had not yet been to Blackfinn and regret not going there earlier as the beer choices and menu is great. The Speaker Dinner for SQLSaturday #237 started at around 6pm, I got there a few minutes early as I was at my hotel room just up the street recovering from helping tear down the Pragmatic Works booth. The dinner was great with lots of very active discussions going on and over 30 people there. When the dinner finished off there were some ideas of finding another place to go to and there was also the QCity BBQ Festival going on as well. I was pretty tired from all of the previous week's activities so I decided to just go back to my hotel and rest.

I decided to sleep in on Saturday and get the chance to wake up without an alarm for one of the first times this week. I missed the opening keynote and the first session, since I didn't get to the Central Piedmont Community College (CCPC) Levine Campus until around 10am. As soon as I got there I could see that things were in full swing with the organizers (Javier, Jason, Rafael and Melissa) and volunteers all keeping everything running very smoothly. The setup at the location was very easy with just a long hallway that most of the rooms were right off and all of the drinks/food that you could ask for throughout the day. My session wasn't until the last slot of day, so that gave me time to see a couple of sessions and get some lunch. Sessions that I sat on were great and attendance was very good from what I could see in all of the rooms. My "SSIS 2012: More Than Just a Pretty UI" session is the one that was selected for this event and I had around 20-25 people in it, which is great for the last slot of the day. There was a lot of interacting in the session, especially in the section where I covered the new Project Deployment model in SSIS 2012. Hopefully everyone that attended got something out of the session and from the feedback I received it sounded like they all enjoyed it.

After the event finished with the raffle giveaways a nice sized group of people headed over to the Beantown Tavern in Matthews for the after party. This was very well attended by both the speakers, organizers, volunteers and attendees. The bar appeared to be a bit unprepared for the number of people that came and had some issues getting orders flowing. I hung around until most of the people had already left and we found out that a bar just behind was going to host Karaoke that evening! Oh yeah, more #SQLKaraoke! Kristopher's is where we ended up and the karaoke didn't start there until 10pm, so we had some time to kill. We started spreading the word to everyone else that might still be in the area about #SQLKaraoke and we did end up getting some others to come over and join us, had around 10 or people there in the end. By the time we got to 1am everyone was looking pretty tired and we knew that we still had a 30 minute or so drive back to Charlotte Uptown, so we left and made the trip back to Charlotte.

Another great SQLSaturday event that I was glad that I was invited by Javier, Jason, Rafael and Melissa to speak at and thanks to all of the volunteers that helped them along with all of the other speakers that made it such a great event.

My post PASS Summit 2013 & SQLSaturday #237 activity on Sunday was to head down to Carowinds amusement park and ride some more #SQLCoasters that I have yet to be on. For those that don't know I have been a coaster enthusiast for most of my life, thanks to my Aunt Margie getting me on a coaster in Cedar Point (if you have never been to Cedar Point, it is the BEST coaster park in the world and yes I know they also run Carowinds)! Got to the park just after it opened at 10:30 and I was able to ride every single coaster and a few of them at least twice within 2.5 hours! If you have not been on the Intimidator coaster at Carowinds, I highly recommend it! Probably the most air time I have ever had on a coaster and one of the smoothest rides ever as well. After that I headed down to Columbia, SC to work the next week onsite at the client's offices. The perfect ending to a fun filled week in the Charlotte area!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

PASS Summit 2013

PASS Summit 2013 was in Charlotte, NC this year for the first time and after a few years in a row in Seattle, WA. Was great to get away from Seattle and I have been flying in and out of Charlotte all year, so it was nice to spend some time inside the downtown (Uptown) area itself. After spending a whole week in Charlotte, I really love the city and hope that I will be able to spend more time in the city again. Now for my summary of the week at PASS Summit 2013!

I got into Charlotte at around 1am on Monday, October 14th after the 6 hour drive from Jacksonville, FL after 3 days of PDW training at Pragmatic Works HQ (more on this in a later blog post) and some off-roading fun with co-workers. I was not signed up for any pre-cons on Monday or Tuesday so I had all day Monday off to enjoy the sights and tastes of Charlotte! Started the day on Monday with a guided Segway tour of Uptown Charlotte. I have never been on a Segway before, so there was a brief intro to how to use it and surprisingly it only takes a few minutes to pick up how it works. The tour was awesome and I would highly recommend it to anyone that is thinking about. From there I got my registration materials for PASS Summit 2013, which I got to use the Speaker registration area for the first time! The one recommendation I have being a first time presenter at PASS Summit is to still give the speaker shirts to even those that only do a Lightning Talk session. I understand that they are only 10 minute sessions, but this is how speakers get their first chance to present to a large conference and it shows that you are still part of the speaker core for the event.

After registration and saying hello to all of the #SQLFamily that were already at the Charlotte Convention Center we made our way to The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery for lunch and some beer! Was great to find a place in the US that makes an authentic Düsseldorf style Altbier. I lived in Düsseldorf, Germany for a year right out of college and Altbier was one of very first beers I ever liked to drink (didn't like American beer at the time) so I was really happy to have it again after 15+ years. They also had a lot of German food, which was very good as well. The next stop on our Charlotte craft beer tour was supposed to be Birdsong Brewery, but the were not open on Monday, so we then wandered over to NoDa Brewery which was right across the street and they weren't open for another 30 minutes or so. We decided to walk the extra half mile or so to Heist Brewery, which probably one of the larger craft brewery facilities with lots of dining/bar space. Beers at Heist were very good and the Beer Cheese with Pretzel sticks was excellent.

By the time we got back into Uptown it was time for the annual Networking Dinner that Andy Warren and Steve Jones organize at the Buffalo Wild Wings attached to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and right across the street from the Charlotte Convention Center. Was a huge crowd of people at the event this year, was great to see so many new and familiar faces again. After the Networking Dinner wound down I walked over to the Carolina Ale House, which became the unofficial home for many before/during/after events during PASS Summit 2013.

Tuesday was a day full of meetings with PASS for me, being a local Chapter Leader and SQLSaturday organizer, PASS always sets up this day at Summit for us to get a chance to talk with them and the other leaders/organizers. Meetings were good and I think that many new ideas were expressed. I have to say that I think the format of the meeting at last year's Summit went a bit better, especially the SQLSaturday Roundtable where I heard about some great ideas for helping the event run more smoothly, which did implement for SQLSaturday #190 a few weeks ago and it did make a difference. Tuesday evening was the PASS Summit Volunteer Party at a local bowling alley in the EpiCentre. Another great event that PASS puts on for those of us that help organize and speak at the event each year. This is the 2nd year that I have been able to attend this event and it is always a great time to wind down and enjoy some fun with everyone that helps make this event what it is every year. Later that evening was also the first night of #SQLKaraoke at Fox and Hound (conveniently only a block from my hotel, Dunhill Hotel). I stay way too late at the karaoke event, but it was just way too much fun.

Wednesday is the first actual day of the Summit, and since I was out way too late for #SQLKaraoke I didn't wake up early enough for the keynote (plus I knew it would be recorded and online) and I wanted to make sure I was well rested since I had my first presentation at Summit later that afternoon. Wednesday is SQLSaturday shirt day at Summit, so I made sure to put on my Kansas City #191 speaker shirt before going to the convention center. I stopped by the Community Zone to see how things were going with the setup there and also visit some of the community leaders there. I also stopped by the Pragmatic Works booth to see how it was setup and meet some of the people from our sales offices that I had not yet met. The lunch on Wednesday is always the Chapter lunch, where each chapter has table(s) in the lunch area and they encourage everyone to sit at the appropriate tables for where they live. The Denver group had 4 tables this year and we had at least 3 of them filled during the lunch and there were some new people that we hope to see at future meetings! Always love that PASS does this at the Summit each year and we have found a few new members each year from that, so it is more than worth it. The afternoon went by very fast as I spent some time preparing in the speaker room before my presentation slot late in the afternoon. The setup for the presentation didn't go as smoothly as I would have hoped. They put the Lightning Talks in a smaller room again (this is a not so good tradition at Summit as Lightning Talks are becoming more popular) and while there is a 6 port video switcher in the room, only 2 or 3 are setup. For the Lightning Talks it would be nice if all of the ports were made available and we could all get our laptops setup and tested, instead we each had to rush up there when it was our time and get connected. There were some very good presentations during the Wednesday slot I was in, including Rob Volk and Ed Watson's "DBAs in Toyland" presentation. The scariest thing about this presentation that I learned from Ed Watson afterwards is that all of the nightmare scenarios they covered all really happened! I think that mine went ok, my resolution did not get setup like I wanted in the VM, so some things were getting cut off on the screen. I was able to get through all of the material and I think that at least a handful of people got my Doctor Who jokes/references. After finishing my presentation I needed to get back to the hotel to change for the Exhibitor Reception at the Pragmatic Works booth, since we have done a free book signing now for the last 2 years which is very popular and we need everyone there just for crowd control. We were also passing out wristbands for our #SQLKaraoke event at Prohibition/Sip later that evening as well. The reception went well, had some issues with the line for the book signing, but we were able to give out all of the books we had in about an hour. I left the reception early to get to our event (which was conveniently across the street from my hotel) and see how the prep was going. Surprisingly there were already quite a few people there even though it was clear on the wristbands that it didn't start for another hour. The location quickly filled up and there were a lot that got up a did karaoke in front of the live band or just traditional karaoke. Another very successful event with over 600 people attending!

Thursday was the one day that I knew I would be able to attend some sessions, as I only had to work in the Pragmatic Works booth from 9am-noon, the rest of the day was free. The booth duty was very easy since most of the attendees were in the keynote at that time. After lunch I did attend a SQLCAT session on PDW, which I have to say was quite disappointing since there really wasn't a lot of PDW specific content as the title/description indicated. For the next session I went to see the 2nd Lightning Talks sessions to show my support for the other speakers doing what I had done the previous day. These talks were all good as well, but the standouts were Niko Neugebauer and Richard Douglas. Richard did a session on explaining T-SQL to a Star Wars geek, which was very funny. Niko had the assistance of Scott Stauffer for a very funny and informative session on NodeXL. Also, the Denver area had a 2nd presenter in the Lightning Talks with Jeff Renz doing a quick overview of his favorite topic, DataVault! The last session of the day is one that I have gone to at many conferences over the years and love it every time, the "BI Power Hour". This is a session as they point out that has absolutely no content that you will be able to use in your normal work, but does show some ways to use the Microsoft BI tools that you have probably not seen before. We finally got a very valid explanation (at least in Matthew Roche's view) of why the products all have Power at the beginning at are collectively called Power BI. As always there was a lot of SWAG that they threw out into the crowd, and since most of us in the front row got into the room 30+ minutes before the session started, we were each given one of these SQL Server 2012 USB 8GB flash drives/phone chargers (called 8GB Powerstick).

Pretty cool device, but definitely the largest USB flash drive I have ever seen. Thursday evening at PASS Summit is the Community Appreciation Party which all attendees are invited to and this year it was held at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, which is right next to the convention center. Since that event didn't start until later in the evening I decided to get some dinner with friends at a sushi restaurant, fantastic food and even better company and discussions. This is by far the best thing about going to PASS Summit is all of the side networking that goes on during the week. After dinner I headed back to my hotel to change clothes and drop off my bag. Since it was so late and the event was going to end soon I used my hotel's free limo service to drop me off, saving at least a half hour. The event was good, was closed to the public, so only the attendees of the conference were let in and we had the chance to see the whole place. Nice setup in there with the cars, but not being a NASCAR fan (love Formula 1 and IndyCar) I didn't really get much out of it. A group of us decided to try and find another #SQLKaraoke location and there was a place near the Carolina Panther's stadium called, Hartigan's. Very interesting place (those that attended or know about this place will know what I'm talking about) by far the funnest place I've been to for #SQLKaraoke. Had to leave early though since I was scheduled to be in the Community Zone from 7am - 8am on Friday.

Friday started way too early, especially after a late night at #SQLKaraoke, with getting to the Community Zone before 7am. Not sure why we needed to be there that early since the only attendees coming in that early were looking for coffee and breakfast. It was fun to talk to other community leaders though and get/share ideas on running our groups. Worked out well to be sitting down in that area though, since I got pulled into a PDW Roadmap meeting that I was not directly notified of ahead of time, but got pulled in to represent Pragmatic Works. Very interesting information, but nothing that I can talk about here since it was a NDA protected session. After that, I grabbed some early lunch with co-workers and then headed back to the exhibit hall for more Pragmatic Works booth coverage. Got to do a lot more demos during this time since many attendees were trying to get through all of the exhibitors before the floor closed at 2pm. Once the hall closed it was time to break down, amazing how fast most of those big booths can get torn down! I had to leave for a few minutes to get my rental car to use for my speaking at SQLSaturday #237 (more on this in a separate post) and getting to my client site in Columbia, SC on Sunday.

That ends what happened as part of PASS Summit 2013 for me, but my time in the Charlotte area did not end until Sunday! Overall, PASS Summit 2013 went by way too fast (as it always does), but it was great as always to spend time with #SQLFamily and get some more learning on to keep up with all of the changes are always happening with Microsoft SQL Server. My biggest to-dos that I still have left is to watch both keynotes that I missed via streaming media, if I pick up anything from that I'll make sure to put together a separate post on that as well. There are also many other sessions that I missed, but I knew that our chapter would be getting access to the recording for all sessions, so I wasn't too worried about that and will catch up on those as soon I get access to the recordings. Attendance at the event seemed very good and the convention center did work very well. The main complaint that I would have about the convention center itself is that the exhibit hall was kind of out of the way, being on the lowest level with the meal hall, but nothing else down there. Some exhibitors that I talked to were saying that it was hurting them, since there was not as much traffic as there would normally be when that hall is in the main traffic flow of the convention center. I'm sure that I will think of other things in the days ahead as I'm able to process things more, if necessary I'll add updates to this post or create new ones.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

T-SQL Tuesday #47 - SWAG

It T-SQL Tuesday again, and for this month's topic it is about the Stuff We All Get (Stuff sometimes replaced with another word) or SWAG!

I have been going to technical conferences since around 2000 when I started going to TechEd and PDC as a .NET developer and PASS Summit for the last 7 years along with the short-lived Microsoft Business Intelligence Conference. Through all of those conferences as you can imagine I have received a literal ton of SWAG.

While the conference bags are usually really nice and I do end up using some of them afterwards (I hate using them at the conference I get it for though because I'm afraid of mine getting mixed up with everyone else's). I'm going to pick my one favorite as something that I pack for almost every trip and grab to take with me almost every evening in the fall and spring.

This is the pull over that was given to all of the speakers and organizers of SQLSaturday #169 in Denver 2012! We debated on what we were going to do for a speaker shirt to be different that year and since our SQLSaturday is in late September, we thought it would be great if it was a pull-over that could be worn over any other shirt on those colder evenings/morning. We even had a version for women that was slightly different, in that it was cut more for women in the middle and had the holes at the end of the sleeves so that it could be pulled down on the arms and would not roll up. I actually like that we didn't do that for the men's version since I tend to pull up my sleeves sometimes.

That is definitely the one bit of SWAG that I have received over the last 13 years that I really like and use a bunch. Looking forward to seeing what the SWAG will be next week at PASS Summit 2013 (if you haven't registered yet, there is still time and use code SUM521CH to get $150 off!). For those of you going to Summit, see you next week! :)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

SQLSaturday #190 Wrap-up

SQLSaturday #190 in Denver was this past weekend and based on the feedback was another great success for us. The Denver SQL Server User Group Board organized this event with lots of help from volunteers, speakers and the support of our sponsors. Without all of these pieces there would be no way to put on such a big event. We had around 230 attendees on Saturday that attended over 30 separate sessions. We also offered 3 pre-cons on Friday 9/27 from Carlos Bossy, Tim Mitchell and Dmitri Korotkevitch. The pre-cons were also very successful and we will definitely consider doing it again next time.

Also want to put a very special thank you to all of the speakers that presented at our event! It is always great to see all of the speakers that come out for these events and I'm happy to be part of the #SQLFamily because of everything that I get each of them!

If you attended SQLSaturday #190, please look at the Schedule page on the SQLSaturday site to download all of the presentation materials that are made available by the speakers.

Not making any announcements for 2014 at this point, as we all recover, but keep your eyes and ears open for more details!

Thanks again to all that volunteered, presented and sponsored this event!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

SQLSaturday #190 Denver This Weekend!

SQLSaturday #190 Denver 2013 is this Saturday, September 28th! The Denver SQL Server User Group and volunteers have been working really hard to put together the best SQL Server training day in the area, so why have you not registered yet? The event is completely FREE and supported by the best sponsors in the business. Come to learn, share and network with 200+ other SQL Server professionals with 30+ different sessions in 6 separate tracks. For just $10 you can also stay right where you are and get a great lunch (it will not be pizza, we promise). At the end of the day we will have lots of great prizes to raffle off from all of the sponsors. And if you want to network even more we will have an After Party at Darcy's Bistro & Pub with some appetizers.

If you want even more training we are offering pre-cons this year as well on Friday, September 27th for $125. For that you get a full day of training in one of the 3 sessions that we are offering along with lunch and snacks/refreshments available throughout the day. The 3 sessions we are offering this year are:

If you haven't registered yet for any of this great training, go to http://denversqlsaturday.com now!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Building a Technical Presentation - Part 3

After a longer delay than I wanted, it's the final part of my Building a Technical Presentation series! If you missed Part 1 or Part 2, see those links to catch-up.

Practice, Practice, Practice and Practice Some More!

The biggest key to success with presenting that I have learned over the years is that the more practice you can do the better you will feel when it is time to do the presentation. Most of the time that I have been really nervous for a presentation is when I have not practiced the presentation enough or it has been a longer break from presenting. I actually had that happen just this last weekend at SQLSaturday #191 in Kansas City. I was doing a presentation that I have done at least 5 times now, so it was nothing to do with not knowing the material, but it was just because it had been a few months since I was at a SQLSaturday and presenting in front of people. The nervousness only lasted for the first few minutes of the presentation, but it was a weird feeling that I don't recall having in the recent past since I have been presenting pretty regularly this year.

So, you might ask how do I practice? Well everyone does it a little different and you will have to find the way that works best for you. For a lot of people they will stand in front of a mirror and do the presentation or use a video camera or even do it in front of friends/family. I have found that I can practice in my head and it comes off as well as I expect, but that has only come after a few years of doing presentations. The most important thing is to find the way that works best for you and do it, trying to do a presentation cold, without practice is not recommended unless it is something that you are EXTREMELY comfortable talking about (or it is a panel discussion or something like that which really requires no preparation).


The next thing that will happen, is to actually do the presentation! Hopefully you have had the chance to get to the room you are going to the presentation early to make sure you understand how things are setup. Leave yourself plenty of time to get your laptop setup and test the connections to the projectors. If you are going to be using a microphone, that is another good thing to make sure you have time to test out and get connected correctly, nothing throws me off faster than fighting with a mic to get it working. Same goes for making sure your slides are working and showing up correctly on the projector.

If you have some time with the people in your presentation before the session starts and there won't be a formal introduction, it might be a good time to do some conversation starters or what some call, "Breaking the Ice". That can help both you and the crowd get relaxed and ready for you to present to them. I like to try and do it sometimes as it does help to take your mind off of the presentation for a few minutes, especially if you are extremely nervous.

As you were practicing, hopefully you worked on not putting in a bunch of "umhs" and "ahs" that are typical time fillers you might say as you are trying to think of the next thing to say. Don't feel like you have to fill every single second of a presentation with your voice, a few pauses are natural and good for the audience as it gives them time to "digest" what you just said. It also gives the audience a chance to ask some questions, assuming you are going to take questions during the session. When questions are being asked it is a good time to take a drink of water to help calm your nerves as well.

Once you have finished your presentation don't forget to thank the audience for attending your session and this is also a good time to thank the selection committee for the event, if appropriate.


After you have completed the presentation you will probably be on a bit of a "rush" as your adrenaline will still be flowing and hopefully it all went well. Now you will want to hear from others how you did, hopefully you will get some people that come up to you and tell you how it went, but you can also ask those that you know what they thought too. Another great way to get feedback is to use sites that specialize in that, like speakerrate.com, which I have used for years to track my presentations. This does require that people go to the site and fill it out which can be difficult to get them to do especially when there is no internet access. Some of the events that you go to will provide speaker feedback forms, so you can either collect those at the end of the presentation or the event will collect them and provide the results to you. It is always good to keep track of how well you are doing. Try not to take all of the feedback too personally, some people will be a bit rough, and others will not give a lot of details, so take it all together to help you improve.


For this series of posts I wanted to focus on just the speaking and presenting fundamentals for those that have not presented before. The big step that you eventually need to take with presenting will be doing live demos along with talking about topics. While this can be very scary to do, you can make it easier on yourself by making sure that the environment you do these demos in is stable and repeatable. I switched many years ago from doing any demos on the actual laptop or computer that I have connected for the presentation, just because of the stability issues as you usually have lots of other programs running in the background on your main computer (think about Dropbox, backup and virus scanners, IM programs, etc. that are all running in the background). Instead of trying to remember to manually stop all of these programs before you start your presentation, I have switched to using only Virtual Machines or VMs for my demos. The reason I do this is because the VM is something that I build, so it gives me the experience on installing all of these programs and also I make sure to only install what I need in those VMs. And for me the best feature of VMs is that you can setup what are called Snapshots in most VM hosting programs, where the disk image is "frozen" to that point in time and you can just restore back to that before you start your presentation so that you know everything is reset to the way it all worked the last time.

I have tried just about all of the VM hosting applications out there over the years and I have been using Oracle's free VirtualBox for the last 3 years without any issues. Previously I was doing a lot of my demos on a Mac and using either VMWare Fusion or Parallels Desktop and both worked perfectly fine on the Mac, so if you are using a Mac I can recommend both of those, along with VirtualBox which also runs on the Mac. For the last couple of years I have been using Windows laptops, so I did try Microsoft's Hyper-V, but found that it was not built to work well with a laptop, since it has issues with wireless networking and display resolutions. Hopefully with some of the future upgrades to Windows maybe I can switch back to Hyper-V, but at this point I'm using VirtualBox exclusively.

For whatever VM program you do choose, the other big hurdle will be where to get your licenses to install Windows Server, SQL Server, SharePoint Server, etc. As I have mentioned in previous posts I do have a personal TechNet subscription that provides those for me, but that program is being phased out. You can use the evaluation versions of Microsoft server software in your VMs, with the warning that those are time-bombed, so make sure you do check before you do your presentation that you still have time left. Otherwise you hopefully have access to an MSDN membership through your work. I still have hopes that Microsoft will come out with some membership that does not require as much cost as MSDN in the next year to replace TechNet, but no word yet on that.


So that covers everything that I have been thinking about to put into this series of posts and helps to document how I go through the process of creating new technical presentations and then some tips on actually doing the presentations themselves. Thanks for following along with this series and I hope that you found it useful. The best thing that I can hope comes out of this series is if even one person that has not presented before uses this to help them put together their first presentation. If you do that, please feel free to contact me with any feedback!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

SQLSaturday #191 & PASS Summit 2013

For those that are in the Kansas City area, I'll be there this weekend to speak and enjoy the area (hopefully getting to ride some coasters at Worlds of Fun too). So, if you are in the area, make sure you stop by to see my session in the Amazon room at 11:15am on SQL CDC and SSIS 2012, titled "Capture Change and Apply it With Change Data Capture and SSIS". Currently registration for the event is full, but you can get in on the wait list. Hope to see you all there! This is my 2nd year in a row at the KC SQLSaturday event, so I'm really looking forward to catching up everyone that I know in the area, and meet a bunch of new ones too.

Today, PASS released the full schedule for PASS Summit 2013 in Charlotte, NC where I will also be presenting! I have attended the PASS Summit every year since 2007 when it was in my backyard at Denver. This year I'm really excited that I get to join the long list of great speakers, while I'm only doing a Lightning Talk session (10 minutes or shorter presentations) this year, I'm hoping that will lead to being chosen for regular sessions in the future. My presentation titled, "Master the Date Dimension Like a Time Lord" will be on Wednesday, October 16th at 3:00pm in 212A-B in the Lightning Talk 101 or LT-101 session. I have made a point of attending the Lightning Talk sessions over the last few years, because it is a great way to see new speakers and lots of great quick presentations in just a single session (yes, I know there are 2 separate Lightning Talk sessions, LT-102 is on Thursday, same time, same room with fellow Coloradan, Jeff Renz presenting).

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Road Warrior Gadgets

I found a few gadgets that I have been using on my business trips that I wanted to show to everyone else hoping that it will help you as much as they have helped me!

Asus WL-330NUL Multi-Mode Pocket Router

I heard about this small ASUS router from Larry Hryb (Microsoft Xbox's Major Nelson) on his podcast, episode #485 as he was listing off a few different portable routers he has tried. He has since mentioned a few others, but I bought this one based on the details on the ASUS and Amazon pages and reviews and the size and cost.

This little device that is no bigger then a pack of gum and does 4 different things and does them all very easily! First off it only has 2 connections. On one end is the USB cord that nicely folds up into the device when not in use, but it is a very short cord. The other end is a standard ethernet port.

Now onto what this micro sized device does! The 4 functions that it can do are:

  1. Portable Wireless Router (wired to wi-fi)
  2. Hot Spot Sharing (wi-fi to wi-fi)
  3. USB Ethernet Adapter (wired to USB)
  4. Wireless Adapter (wi-fi to USB)

So far, I have been able to test it in the first 3 modes.

Mode #1 is great in a hotel where you have a wired connection, which is usually faster and more reliable than the wi-fi that you can connect up to and share with up to 8 devices. And the best part is you only have to login to the hotel's network setup once and it then it just works on all of the devices!

Mode #2 is also pretty cool when you are using wi-fi in a hotel or anywhere else and you want to share it with up to 8 devices and login only once (same a Mode #1).

Mode #3 works just as you would expect, just plug it into the USB slot and then use it as a regular ethernet adapter. This mode works perfectly for my Macbook Air in both Windows 8 and OSX, that does not come with a ethernet port at all. Mode #4 should work the same as the wired ethernet adapter, just that it functions as a wi-fi adapter. The only downside about using Modes #3 and #4 with OSX is to make sure you download the latest drivers from the ASUS site. For Windows just plug it into a USB slot and it has the drivers on the device (you may still want to download the latest version from the website though).

Awesome device and the fact that I can just plug into hotel wired networking and plug it into a USB power plug to power it and be up and running in minutes on all of my devices is just awesome! Also a little bit of a tip that I learned from the Major Nelson Radio podcast is to set the SSID on this device to the same SSID you use at home with the same password, then you don't even have to setup a new wi-fi connection, it should just see it and connect to it just as if you were at home! Probably one of the best devices I've bought recently, especially with as much as I rely on hotel wi-fi when I travel. And it only cost around $40!

Google Chromecast

I'm sure by now most of you have heard of the Google Chromecast, which is an HDMI connector that allows you to "push" internet content from your devices to the TV. The one thing that I wanted to bring up is how to use this in a hotel! When I first ordered this I had my doubts that I could get this working with hotel wi-fi, and I have not yet tried to connect it directly to the hotel wi-fi and you probably don't want to since it would possibly be visible to everyone else on the same wi-fi. What I have been able to do is use the ASUS WL-330NUL detailed above as the wi-fi connection in Mode #1 or Mode #2! Again if you setup the ASUS wi-fi SSID to the same as you home wi-fi network there should be no reason why you can't unplug the Chromecast from home and just take it with you (I just ended up getting 2 of them, one for home and one for travel. Again, another very cheap device at only $35! The only downside to the Chromecast is that most older TVs do not have power thru the HDMI port, so you will have to use the provided USB cable and power plug to get it up and running (micro USB plugs into the other end of the device).

Once you get the Chromecast up and running on the TV it is very easy to send any video content from YouTube, Netflix and others that are adding support for it. The difference in how the Chromecast works over other similar devices/protocols (like Apple's Airplay) is that the actual video processing and streaming is off-loaded from your device to the Chromecast itself (this is why it needs it's own wi-fi connection). This makes it so that you can do whatever else you want with your device/laptop and even queue up more content to the Chromecast and then use your device for whatever else you want. I have been considering buying another Apple TV or Roku to take with me on trips, but now the Chromecast has filled this need and is much smaller than either of those options!

SanDisk Connect 32GB Wireless Flash Drive (SDWS2-032G-E57)

The last device I wanted to cover is these new flash drives from SanDisk, called the SanDisk Connect, that have built-in wi-fi for some of the same functionality I already covered in the ASUS WL-330NUL above. But, this one also has a micro SD port that allows you to change out the storage up to 64GB at a time. It still functions just like any other flash drive, but the storage is swappable and the device does have a battery built in that allows for up to 4 hours of wi-fi sharing! This is pretty cool, gives me the perfect way to carry around all of my music, video and pictures as I travel. Now while a lot may be saying that you use various cloud solutions for that and while I agree, I also see this as a backup to that and a much easier way to get to it if there is no open wi-fi. If you have an iOS device you can download the SanDisk Connect app and it will allow you to read/write content directly from those devices. I think that there is also an Android app, but those of us with Windows Phones will have to use the built in website, which doesn't allow for uploading. It does still have a USB port although it is only USB 2.0 so copying a lot of content to it can take awhile (a very long time for 64GB). The other warning is that the micro SD must be using exFAT for the filesystem in order for it work with this SanDisk device you CANNOT reformat the micro SD to another format.

The other thing that I will add that I found cool is a credit card sized storage for up to 8 micro SD cards that I also carry around with the SanDisk Connect. For those that want something a bit bigger that uses full size SD cards, there is also the SanDisk Connect Media Drive.

Hopefully these devices might help you get through the pains of travel a bit better, feel free to share out the link to this post to anyone that will benefit from it! :)

I promise I'll be back soon with the 3rd and final part of my Building a Technical Presentation series, make sure you read Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven't yet.

Monday, August 26, 2013

SQL Community Updates

Just a few quick updates on things going on with the #SQLFamily!

SQLSaturday #190 Denver Pre-Cons

We are offering pre-cons for the first time this year at SQLSaturday #190 in Denver on Friday, September 27th. There are 3 different pre-cons to choose from and they are priced at $99 until 8/31 on 9/1 the early bird price will expire and the cost will go up to $125, so register before 8/31! Below are the 3 pre-cons we are offering:

Carlos Bossy - Predictive Analytics in the Enterprise 
Tim Mitchell - Real World SSIS: A Survival Guide 
Dmitri Korotkevitch - SQL Server Internals from the Practical Angle

Go to http://denversqlsaturday.com for more details and to register for the pre-cons and the SQLSaturday itself on Saturday, September 28th!

SQLSaturday #237 Charlotte BI Edition

If you are in the Charlotte area for PASS Summit 2013, stick around through the weekend and come to SQLSaturday #237 on Saturday, October 19th. I am honored that I have been selected to present my "SSIS 2012: More Than Just a Pretty UI" session at the event. Looking forward to seeing everyone that was at PASS Summit earlier in the week and those that were not able to attend Summit.

Charlotte BI Group - October Meeting

And while I'm talking about the Charlotte area I am also planning on attending the Charlotte BI Group meeting on Tuesday, October 1st as well. I'll be in the Columbia, SC area that week, so why not spend some time with other #SQLFamily and get a preview of what Melissa, Jason and Rafael will be presenting at PASS Summit a couple of weeks later!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Charlotte BI Group - August Meeting

I had the pleasure of presenting my "Capture Change and Apply It with Change Data Capture and SSIS 2012" session at Tuesday evening's Charlotte BI Group to a full room with lots of great questions asked by the attendees. For those that attended, thank you very much for your comments and questions and to the organizers of the group: Javier, Melissa, Jason and Rafael thank you all for letting me present and meet with your group.

For those that want to see the slides that I presented and try out the demos that I showed in the presentation, below is a link to download everything.

The requirements for these samples to work are SQL Server 2012 Evaluation, Developer or Enterprise Editions, AdventureWorks2012 and AdventureWorks2012DW. Also as I mentioned in the session you must have full admin rights to the SQL Server instance that you are going to try and setup CDC on, so a local instance on your own workstation/VM is recommended.

Thanks again and I will see you all again in October at PASS Summit 2013 in Charlotte and/or SQLSaturday #237!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Building a Technical Presentation - Part 2

For Part 2 of my Building a Technical Presentation series, I'm going to cover getting all of the ideas for your presentation together and creating the slides. If you missed Part 1 of this series, click here.

Putting Thoughts Together

After coming up with the Subject of your presentation we covered in Part 1, hopefully you also had a bunch of ideas on what you want to cover in your presentation. I have used multiple different tools to capture all of these ideas in the past, including pen & paper, Notepad and Evernote. Lately, I have just started to put these ideas into PowerPoint directly since that is where they will end up for the presentation anyway. I'll just start to put all of the ideas down on a basic bullet list template in PowerPoint and maybe try to start organizing them into a rough outline of what I want the presentation to cover. Do worry too much at this stage to get everything in the correct order or even on slides that make sense, at this stage it's more about just getting all of your ideas down. Try not to edit this too much, even the things that you think are not going to be a great idea may help you come up with something else later on, so put it all down.

Creating the Slideshow

Now that you have most of the ideas together for your presentation (you will not have everything at this point as you will always come up with new items as you build/practice it) it's time to start making the slides that you will use for this presentation. There are some presentations that will not have many slides and others that you might end up with way too many. It is hard to strike that proper balance and only after presenting multiple times will you start to get a feel for your pace. My general rule of thumb is to not try and do more than 5 or 6 slides for a 45-60 minute presentation, when there is a demo involved. As I mentioned in Part 1 you should not push yourself into doing your first presentations with live demos, so the number of slides will be higher if you are presenting in a 45-60 minute slot. As a rule of thumb for myself I know that I will usually talk on each slide for an average of 5 minutes.

The easiest way to start building your slideshow is to start with the title slide. I like to keep it simple, just the title as you submitted the session in large text to make it very clear. Keep in mind that this will probably be the slide that you will pull up before you start your presentation, so you can add some graphics and animation to catch people's attention as you are waiting for the session time to begin and the attendees to take their seats. You should also put your name on this slide along with some basic info like your title and company that you work for (or get a company slide template that has the logo on it, then you can skip typing the company name on your intro slide).

For my presentations I tend to use the bulleted list format for most of my slides, if the material on the slide lends itself to a table, chart or graph I will do that as well. The biggest thing to keep in mind with the text that you put on slide is to not put every word you are going to say on it, use the text on the slide to be summary of what you are going to talk about. Some like to use pictures or other graphics and animations to "spice" up their presentations, but that is completely up to you and how you think the audience you are presenting this to will take that. I think that this is another thing that you will start to use more as you get more comfortable presenting and using the tool to build your slideshow in. Also keep in mind that the more this "spice" you add to the presentation is more of the time that they are not paying complete attention to you and maybe even what you are saying. Just keep the amount of text on these slides to a minimum as much as possible, you want them to be used for you and the audience to keep track of where you are in the presentation and to get the summary points for notes. You don't want to put so much text on them that the audience feels they need to read everything on the slide instead of listening to you.

Along with adding graphics and animations to your slideshow the next big debate is over manually advancing your slides or having them automatically timed. I have yet to do a presentation where I use automatically timed slides, but is becoming a more popular way to do presentations, especially when you have a lot to cover in a short time. Automatically timed slides as you can imagine require a lot of preparation ahead of time to make sure you are in sync with the slides. The big issue with this type of presentation is that you will need to let everyone know to hold questions for the end or have a way to pause it to take questions. Some presenters love doing it this way, as it helps them to keep on time and make sure that they cover everything. That last point is where I think this method goes wrong, I like to make my presentations dynamic and I know that I have never covered the material in my presentations the same way twice. Keeping the audience involved is important and by them not being able to ask questions will make it very hard for them to stay involved.

Dedicate the last couple of slides in your presentation to a quick summary slide, which allows you to go over all of the points you covered. Also put in a slide with your contact info, email, blog address, social networking details, etc. and make sure to mention if you are going to post your slides or extra material to your blog or other site and give them that address and when to look for it.

Now that you have your slides completed you should put the tool into presentation mode and click through each slide to make sure that everything flows well and that you don't have too much detail on the slides. Make sure to read through everything on the slides or even have a friend/family member go through them to make sure you didn't make any silly mistakes. At this time you may have too few or too many slides, which is fine we will get into fine tuning this in the next part of this series.