Fun

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The Listening Device

Philips SHH8808 in-ear headphonesA while ago I wrote about an item which I’d bought and which I didn’t regret to have bought.  A backpack to be precise.  Today I ‘m still really happy with that purchase.  But that’s not the topic of this post.  No, today I’m going to tell you about another gadget which I’ve bought.  Well, gadget is a big word maybe for something as simple as an in-ear headset, more precisely a Philips SHH8808.

I’ve only owned it for some days, and again I’m really happy with the object.  I bought it initially so that I could watch some recorded presentations – I have downloaded them a while ago but never found the time to watch – while sitting on the train commuting from work.  And then I realized that the headset not only fits perfectly in my laptop, it also works very well in combination with my PC at work.

And why would I want to use a headset at work, you might ask yourself?  Radio!  Streaming radio!  I like music quite a lot, and I like different genres.  Although not all of them.  My musical preference is a bit difficult to describe, music with good guitar and drums, music made with samples, as long as it sounds good to me :-)

Since I started using the train to commute to work, I’ve not been getting my daily portion which I would otherwise get while driving my car.  That has now come to an (unexpected) end, finally I can listen to some music again.

In fact, already the first day the headset has proven to be useful.  My favorite radio channel, Studio Brussel (live stream – High Quality), was broadcasting a song which I’d never heard.  It was a hip hop song which sounded quite bizarre.  Initially I didn’t even know in what language the dude was singing but after a few seconds it hit me.  He was singing in Afrikaans (one of the languages spoken in South-Africa)!

Almost ten years ago, my wife and I visited that magnificent (though shocking due to the contrasts) country for a three-weeks-long holiday.  Being a Dutch-speaker myself I can understand quite a bit of the language that they speak over there (although not all of it, again difficult to describe:-)).

The song they were playing is called Cooler As Ekke, which means “Cooler Than Me”.

Jack Parow – Cooler As Ekke

And it’s quite funny when you listen to it, it’s even IT-related (slightly).  Here’s part of the lyrics:

Ek’s original jy’s gecopy

Ek’s ‘n flash drive jy’s ‘n floppy

In English that would be:

I’m original you’re a copy

I’m a flash drive you’re a floppy

For more fun, try out Dans Dans Dans (dans is dance in both Afrikaans and Dutch).

Ow, and check out the clip of Dans Dans Dans, I think it’s really great.  Made me think of Indiana Jones movies for some reason, with a twist though.  The dude in the suit is just amazing!

Jack Parow – Dans dans dans

Here’s one more, called Blaas Jou Vuvuzela.  Blaas means “blow”.  I’ll let you work out/look up the rest :-)

Still not satisfied?  Lookup Jack Parow on YouTube :-)

A Quick Headphones Review

Now, back to the headset.  When I got it out of its plastic package, I was a bit surprised by its cord, more precisely the length of it.  It was only 30 centimeters long!  Then I had a look at the package.  It read “for mobile phones”.  Oh no, don’t tell me they expect people to use this headset with their mobile phone clipped on their shirt, or in their shirt’s pocket?!  I must say I was a bit worried for a while, just a little while.

The small black bag Then I had another look in the package.  It contained a small black bag, made from some special fabric, with a rope around the opening so that it can be closed.  That bag contained, guess what, an extension cord of one meter.  Plus additional earplugs of different sizes: S and L.  The M-sized ones were mounted on the headphones by default.  Phieuw, what a relief!

Apparently they chose to use this extension cord system so that it can be replaced with a mobile phone-specific cord with a speaker – that’s what they meant with “for mobile phones”.

The cord itself is made out of some special kind of rubber, preventing it from getting all tangled up.  It’s weird and it feels “jumpy”.  Very nice!  And all connectors are in shiny yellow, well, gold plated material.  I’m not sure if gold plated stands for better sound quality per se, but I guess it doesn’t hurt either.  Plus, it looks really good.

I don’t have a lot of experience with in-ear headphones, but I’m surprised by the quality of the sound produced by these things.  There’s more bass coming out of them than I’d ever have imagined – certainly a much better sound than what’s coming out of the headset that shipped with my Samsung phone.  Everything is really clear, I even hear things better than when played through my stereo system at home.

So, if you’re looking for a not-too-expensive headset, try out the Philips SHH8808.

Have fun!

Valentino.

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A Holiday Post

Now that I’ve been enjoying my holidays for a while now – they’re as good as over – I thought the time had come to let you know what I’ve been up to.  Like any good holiday, it’s been a mix of fun and household chores which had been postponed, waiting for times like these…

The Chores

Let’s start with the though part: the household chores.   These are not really my favorite occupation but sometimes they just need to get done.

Bookshelves

One of the larger tasks at home was mounting bookshelves against the walls in our children’s bedrooms, six in total.  To get a  bookshelf mounted, I first needed to mount a piece of iron on the wall.  This required drilling four holes in the wall, per shelf.  The largest challenge was hanging three bookshelves under each other, all straight and at a similar distance from the wall and each other.  As it just requires math and a spirit level (djeez, what a name, in Dutch it’s just called waterpas, spirits are not involved ;-) , that went quite okay using my regular electrical drill and its hammer function.

To finish off I had to shove the wooden shelf over the mounted iron and fix it using two screws that were part of the package.  And that’s were it went wrong, only slightly, just one screw has been messed up, but wrong it went.  Here’s the evidence:

A screwed-up screw

So, what happened?  Well, lazy as I am, I usually use the battery-powered drill shown above to put screws were they need to go.  However, the iron screws that came part of the package were not up to the power of that drill.  This resulted in a total mess for the first screw (indicated as BAD).  The head is totally messed up which means I can’t even get it out of there without possibly damaging the shelf.  So it’ll just have to stay like that.  The remaining eleven screws were fixed using my manual screwdriver, with a perfect result.

The morale of the story here is that it’s important to use the right tools for the job.  The more experience you’ve got in a particular task, the better your initial choice will be.  Just like with SQL Server, you need to think about what needs to get done and then select the tool to do it.  You need to quickly add a couple of fields to a development database?  Hmm, what tool would you use?  sqlcmd.exe?  Or the Management Studio?  Both would do the job and probably with the same result, but which one would be the fastest for you?  I would go for the SSMS, as I usually already have it running anyway.

Enough about those chores, let’s get to the fun part.

The Fun

Holidays also mean having fun with the kids.

Theme Park

One of our yearly daytrips is a visit to the Efteling, a theme park in The Netherlands.  I’m always looking forward to seeing (and trying) the new attractions.  This year the newest attraction is called Joris en de Draak (George and the Dragon).  It’s a wooden rollercoaster with two trains running simultaneously on two separate tracks.  The blue one represents Water and the Red one is Fire.  And they’re having a battle.  The winning train arrives first.

Joris en de Draak

I had to try out this attraction and was able to convince our oldest daughter – six years old – to come with me.  Luckily she was tall enough to be allowed on the attraction, but only just.  We had to use the carts in the middle part and she had to be accompanied by an adult – no problems there, I’m okay with the middle part :-)

I let my daughter choose the color, and thus we went for blue.  Once the train started, I must admit that I was a bit shocked by its speed.  According to Wikipedia its top speed is 75 km/h (46.6 Mph).  Obviously speed is not the whole story here.  After the first couple of turns, there’s a huge drop down which results in the funny feeling in the tummy (not sure what it’s called) due to the G-force.  And that’s not the only time that G-forces are playing with you.  I can’t remember any other rollercoaster in which the experience was similar.  Again according to Wikipedia, the largest G-force exercised in this attraction is 3G.

If you’re a bit afraid of heights – the coaster is 25 meters high – don’t worry about it.  This thing goes so fast that you won’t have time to even think about how high it goes, plus you’re fixed really tight in your seat.

In total its length is 810 meters (per track) and the ride lasts for two minutes.  It can process 1700 people per hour.

Later the same day, me and my daughter went for another ride, and she again chose blue.  Blue lost the battle this time, and the first time as well.  Ow, and here’s the attraction’s official site.

So, if you have the chance to visit the Efteling, try out this new rollercoaster, the after-effect is just great ;-)

Have fun!

Valentino.

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A while ago I had been playing a bit with the new spatial data types in SQL Server 2008.  Not only can SQL Server store such data, it can also visualize it.  So I had come up with the following query:

select geometry::STPolyFromText
('POLYGON((1 1, 1.5 1.85, 2.5 1.85, 3 1, 2.5 0.15, 1.5 0.15, 1 1),
(1.5 1.5, 1.5 0.5, 1.7 0.5, 1.7 0.9, 2.3 0.9, 2.3 0.5, 2.5 0.5, 2.5 1.5, 2.3 1.5,
2.3 1.1, 1.7 1.1, 1.7 1.5, 1.5 1.5))', 0);

Running that in the Management Studio produces something like this on the Spatial results tab:

Hoegaerden - the polygon

I’m using the STPolyFromText function to produce a six-sided polygon with a letter H in the center.  To get to the result, I’m passing a bunch of XY coordinates to the function.  A line gets drawn between two coordinates following each other.

The first list of coordinates (the first list of numbers enclosed in round brackets) creates the hexagon while the second list produces the letter H.  Each list of coordinates thus represents one polygon.   The starting XY coordinate must be equal to the ending coordinate to form a closed shape.  The shape is then filled with a color.  Overlapping shapes will be filled using different colors, as shown above.

Producing these coordinates was quite interesting: to be able to calculate the angled sides of the hexagon I used the following formulas.

With S being the length of one side:

Width = 2 * S

Height = S * SQRT(3)

Note: these formulas are only applicable when the hexagon is rotated as shown above.

I needed to know these distances to be able to calculate how much I should increase the X/Y coordinates to get to the next connector.

Okay, enough theory, back to the story now.

Q: “So, why are you creating a helipad platform?”

A: No, it’s not supposed to look like a helipad platform.  The shape resembles the beer coasters for the beer called Hoegaarden.  And those coasters always have a funny drawing or comment on them.  Let’s see if I can find one that’s understandable for non-native Dutch-speakers…

(And half an hour later – turns out it’s really not easy to find one without text – luckily they’ve also created some in English!)

Hoegaarden beer coaster

Initially I was planning on writing a longer article about the spatial data types but hadn’t found the time to do it yet.  And then a couple of days ago I came across a challenge that made me think of this query and so now I’m publishing it in this post.

The challenge to which I’m referring was started by Itzik Ben-Gan and is called Geekiest Sig Challenge.  The point is to use the new SQL Server spatial data types to create a signature for yourself.  Well, a perfect description for my query!

I was happy to just get an H on there, getting those coordinates right without first putting it on paper is really a challenge :-)   And on top of that, I was never any good at drawing.  I remember in secondary school we got an assignment to draw a tree.  Any tree.  So at home I looked out the window and started drawing the tree.  I ended up with the most atrocious thing I’d ever seen (well, that may be a bit exaggerated), it could have starred in a Hitchcock movie straight away, really spiky, and probably spooky when encountered in the dark and with the right background noises playing.

Anyway, what I wanted to say, some people are just talented: check out this submission by Michael J. Swart!  No further words needed.

Right, enough geeky stuff to close the week, and remember: have fun!

(Hmm, now I’ve got something to build my favicon from…)

Valentino.

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I usually don’t write posts just to mention a link to another site.  Except when I’ve come across articles which are so good that I want everyone to know about them.  Here are a couple of articles in that particular category.

What Does Microsoft Do With Those Memory Dumps?

The first one is written by Adam W. Saxton, a member of the Microsoft Customer Service and Support (CSS) SQL Server Escalation Services team.

The subject of the post is an issue that developers of Reporting Services reports may come across: “InvalidReportParameterException with Data Driven Subscription”.  The report complains about an invalid parameter while the parameters seem to be okay, visually.  Then the author goes on to describe the actual issue: trailing spaces!  If you’ve been doing BI for a while, this is a quite common issue.  Adam also shows the difference between the LEN() and the DATALENGTH() functions.

But that’s not the reason that I’m mentioning that article here.  The best part starts following the Summary chapter, and is entitled Techie Details.  In that extra chapter he shows how the CSS team uses those crash memory dumps which I’m sure you’ve all seen now and then. 

I won’t give you any details about that, just have a look at the article.  If you’re a developer, there’s some very valuable information there!

I am definitely looking forward to seeing his pre-conference session at the SQL PASS European Conference in Germany this year: Tackling Top Reporting Services Issues!

Some Crazy Code Samples

The second article that I’d like to mention here is written by Phil Factor, a regular at the Simple-Talk site.

This article is called Laying out SQL Code and mentions some database naming conventions and T-SQL coding layout, as the title already implies.  Even if you’re not interested in that (although as a serious developer you should be!!), the article is worth the effort of reading just for its code samples.

Here’s my favorite one:

CREATE TABLE "╚╦╩╗" ( "└┬┴┐" nvarchar(10))
DECLARE @ nvarchar(10)  set @='═'
INSERT  INTO "╚╦╩╗"
        ( "└┬┴┐" )
        SELECT  replicate(@,5)

SELECT  *
FROM    "╚╦╩╗"

And just to prove to you that this really is valid code, here’s the result:

Result of crazy query

So, how about that database for that plumbing company? :-)

BTW: when running that code without paying attention to the details (such as what DB your SSMS is connected to), you may end up with something like this:

Silly table stored in master DB - that's not a best practice! 

So you may want to clean up after running the query using this statement:

drop table "╚╦╩╗"

Have fun!

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With this short post I’m participating in a contest started by Thomas LaRock.  He has written a book called DBA Survivor: Become a Rock Star DBA and is giving a copy away to the winner of the contest.

In the banner I see a man looking out of a window at a grey, dull world.  Based on that info, here’s my caption title:

SQL Server – Color Your Day!

And here’s another one:

Waiting for that report to finish?  Hire A DBA!

See this post on his blog for more info.

PS: first post from Windows 7 64-bit :-)

Have fun!

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