May 2013

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In case you’ve never heard of Community Day, despite that it’s the largest Belgian community event of the year, it’s an event in which several user groups join forces to provide a nice learning experience to the attendees.

The participating user groups this year are VISUG, AZUG, Belgian C++ user group, BIWUG, CLUG, Pro-Exchange, SCUG, SQLUG, ACCB.net/VBIB, WinTalks, DotNetHub, MADN, TechNine, IAMCT and PHP Benelux.

And guess what: I’m a speaker! My colleague Koen Verbeeck and myself have once more decided to share a presenting slot that day.  And we’ll be sharing some Data Visualization Tips & Tricks with you!

Koen will be talking about how to best visualize data: should I use a pie chart or would a bar chart provide a more interesting result, is it really a good idea to use red and green, that kind of stuff.

When he’s finished I’ll be taking over to show you some cool things you can do with SQL Server Reporting Services.  Yes, that’s lots of demos and practically no slides!  Cool?

The expected level is 300.  Don’t worry though, we know that the Community Day crowd consists mainly of developers so we’ll be taking that into account.

Ow, and I’m accepting topic suggestions! If you’ve been wondering about how to get something visualized but never got it to work, don’t hesitate to contact me by either posting a comment here or through email (found on my About page).  Provide a clear description of what you’d like to achieve, with a mock-up example if needed.  I’ll be selecting the most interesting proposals to fill some minutes with. Looking forward to some useful suggestions! Smile

More details about Community Day:

  • Utopolis Mechelen, Spuibeekstraat 5, 2800 Mechelen
  • June 20th 2013, 0830 – 1900
  • Twitter: @ComDayBe
  • Five tracks!

What are you waiting for? Register now before all seats are taken!

See you there and in the meantime: have fun!

Valentino.

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Look at that, it’s T-SQL Tuesday #42, how can I miss that?!

This month’s party is hosted by Wendy Pastrick and the topic is about change in the work life, possibly related to technology.  Well yeah, in my career of approximately fifteen years now I can write a couple of words on that subject.  Here’s the story of my career.

Introduction

For those who don’t know me yet I have something to confess: I used to be a software developer!  And I’m not ashamed to admit this.  Perhaps not that surprising, fifteen years ago you didn’t finish your studies to conclude: "And now I’m going to be a Business Intelligence consultant!".  Oh no, not at all.

During my studies, out of all possibilities, I already knew what I liked most: to develop software.  And I also quickly learned that my favorite language would not be COBOL, too outdated.  It wouldn’t be Visual Basic either, feels like you’re writing a book.  I prefer the shorter C/C++ syntax style.  I also knew that I didn’t want a consultancy position.  I considered a consultant to be an expert, and how could I be an expert after just having finished my studies??

Change 1.1

The first three years of my career I was an in-house C++ programmer.  Then I got involved with a software package that was written in VB6.  They were lacking manpower to implement new functionality and I was asked to help out.  So I did some programming in VB6 because there was no other option.

Then the first version of .NET arrived and guess what I did?  Part of the package’s functionality was the import of data out of flat files.  My job was to automate this process.  SSIS would have been perfect for the job but that didn’t exist yet.  I did use DTS for a couple of things, but not here.  The existing code consisted of about 15,000 lines of VB6 code which means redesigning was not an option anyway.  So I wrote a Windows service in C# that called the VB6 code!  Process automated!

Change 1.2

I’d also been using C# to write a couple of tools to help me in my day-to-day job.  Then the opportunity arose to be part of a new project which would be written completely in C#.  I was happy to be part of this!  Compared with VB6 and VC++6, the new Visual Studio for .NET was really a joy to work with!

Change 1.3

After a good year or so, upper management decided to go on the free tour: instead of .NET we were required to use Java for any new development projects.  Sure, why not give that a try then?!  One of the subprojects on which I worked was an activity monitoring tool for our server application.  I ended up developing some stored procedures to extract statistics out of logging tables.  At that time I wasn’t familiar with the ETL acronym yet, but that’s what I was doing.  Nowadays I would use SSIS for such a task.  There was also a reporting part to the project so I coded a website, in Java, to display those numbers, with drill through functionality and all that fancy stuff.  Nowadays I would definitely use SSRS!

Several months and lots of code later I realized that I didn’t enjoy Java (and all involved tools, libraries, …) as much as I enjoyed C#.  Sure, I could get stuff done.  But it wasn’t always as straightforward as I would have hoped, and online info was not as good – in my opinion.

After ten years of being an in-house developer at three different companies, I decided the time had come for a bigger change!  What I haven’t mentioned so far is that practically all projects in which I was involved used SQL Server as database engine.  And I always enjoyed playing around with that.

Change 2.0

In my new job I would no longer be an in-house employee and my main activity wouldn’t be writing code: I became a SQL Server Business Intelligence Consultant!

My employer, Ordina, gave me some time to cope with the change.  I was allowed to spend some weeks studying books and even going for a week of training (SSAS).

I was also encouraged to start blogging.  Initially it was a challenge to find topics to blog about.  But only initially, nowadays I’ve got too many topics and not enough time.  I discovered it was actually interesting to write about things I’d encountered for real.

Here’s such an example.  In one of my shorter project interventions, I ended up calling a web service through SQL CLR.  This was not an easy task.  Without my developer background I would probably never have succeeded here!  When I turned this into an article on my blog it became my first real hit!  The article, Calling a Web Service From SQL Server 2005, was posted Nov 11, 2008 and has gotten over 26,000 page views to date.  Even today it is still one of the more popular pages I’m hosting.

Besides teaching others through my blog I also discovered that forums can be a really interesting way to improve skills.  So in August 2008 I created a free account at Experts Exchange.  I also found out that helping out on forums combined with blogging is a real win-win situation: it helps me to find topics to write about and I can help people out by referring to an already-written article!

In February 2012 I was delighted to read that EE had found my forum activity worth an extra credit so I was given the MVE – Most Valuable Expert – award! Since then I have managed to reach the number one position in the SSRS zone with over one million points in total and it looks like I’ll be staying there for some time.

Lately I have started presenting.  So far I have found that to be a stressing yet rewarding experience.  My next presentation will be at the Community Day where both I and my colleague Koen Verbeeck will each talk for about half an hour about SSRS visualizations.  The target audience are mainly developers, that’s going to be interesting!  And it will be my first time on a stage in a cinema room, fearing the spotlights already!

Ow, and registration is open so see you there?  Come over to say hello if you are planning to attend the conference.  We are scheduled in the first slot so once that’s over I’ll be relieved of my stress!

Conclusion

Did a change in technology influence my career path?  Ow yeah, I do believe it did!  SQL Server was not the only tech that influenced it but I do consider it the most significant one.  And I’m glad it did too, keeps things challenging! 

Now I’m off to install Oracle.  So long, and thanks for all the fish!

PS: one of my statements in this post is a lie.

Valentino.

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The other day I needed to be able to study the SQL Server 2012 documentation, aka Books Online or BOL, to prepare for an exam while sitting on the train. So I was looking for the latest BOL download but that search wasn’t very successful. It took me a while to realize that what I was doing was no longer valid! Microsoft is no longer distributing the Books Online through the Downloads site!

Well, not entirely true, read on for details.

Because it took me some time to realize what was going on I decided to write a quick post on how to make the BOL 2012 available locally. Basically you’ve got two options.  Let’s start with the first one.

Method 1: Help Library Manager

The first – newly-introduced in SQL Server 2012 – method uses something called Help Library Manager.

This is a generic Microsoft product documentation management system, not exclusively for SQL Server.

Here are the steps to follow to get the SQL Server 2012 docs installed locally.  This method assumes that you’ve already got SQL Server 2012 installed and that your PC is connected to the internet.

To start, click the Manage Help Settings link located in the Documentation & Community subgroup of your SQL Server 2012 start menu shortcut group.

Manage Help Settings

This will open up the Help Library Manager mentioned earlier:

Help Library Manager: installing online content

Click the Install content from online link.  The Help Library Manager starts by fetching the list of available books.  Once finished, locate the SQL Server 2012 content:

Installing the SQL Server 2012 books

Click the Add link next to any book you’d like to install locally.  The link will change to Cancel as shown in following screenshot:

Selecting the books to be installed locally

When you’ve selected all books you’re interested in, click the Update button.  The Library Manager will now start downloading all the content you’ve requested.

Help Library Manager is downloading the requested packages

Now go and get a coffee.  When you’re back, you should be able to click the Finish button and the Books Online will be available locally:

SQL Server 2012 Books Online ready to be used

Method 2: Download from Download Center

It turns out Microsoft took into account that not all computers are able to access the internet, which is a requirement for method 1.  Microsoft does still have something available for download through the Download Center.  However, when I came across the link I hadn’t realized that this was actually the BOL download.  The reason that I didn’t realize this was because the stand-alone BOL download is now called Product Documentation for Microsoft SQL Server 2012 for firewall and proxy restricted environments. I thought this was documentation regarding firewall and other network-related issues but this is actually the full Books Online download!

So if you’re interested in the old-skool BOL download, check this out: [Download Center] Product Documentation for Microsoft SQL Server 2012 for firewall and proxy restricted environments

Have fun!

Valentino.

References
Add or Remove Product Documentation for SQL Server

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