Sunday, July 22, 2018

What I did for the week ending 2018/07/21

I found a version of my favorite SSDT presentation (from PASS Summit 2016) on YouTube. On YouTube, it is named "Continuous Integration with SQL Server Data Tools", presented by Jon Boulineau for the Nashville SQL Server Users Group.

This seems to be an earlier (?) version of a presentation called "Agile Development Fundamentals: Continuous Integration with SSDT", given at a SQL Saturday. In an earlier blog post, I named the PASS version of the presentation as "my new favorite SSDT video". Both presentations were done by the same person and seem to be the same content. The sound on the YouTube version isn't as good as the PASS Summit version, but you do not have to go through the PASS sign-up process to see it. (Though I do recommend PASS for anyone who wants to know how SQL Server works or how Microsoft expects you to use it.)

Jon goes over several things, including an introduction to SSDT, the test project feature and deploying builds. It's just over an hour long.

According to Microsoft's Certification Planning web site, I am officially a "Microsoft Certified Professional", having passed the following exams:
  • Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012/2014
  • Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012/2014 Databases
  • Implementing a Data Warehouse
I'm going to need to evaluate what exam(s) to take next. The versions of SQL Server that I'm tested on are getting old and dusty but I need more Azure in my (professional) life.

I have started the "Azure 215x: Cloud Administration" course. Partly, I am interested in how edX runs it's online courses. I've taken a few other thing online over the years. I tend to do better with self-directed learning. The course is not very long, just a few hours, but I'm going to drag my feet until August starts in order to maximize the free time I have to use Azure tools. (There is a free account level for 12 months, but the minimum granularity seems to be "one month", so I'll dilly-dally for a week.)

Microsoft is now saying that you can get security patches for SQL Server 2008 for free after extended support ends on 7/9/2019. The catch is that you have to move your SQL Server 2008 instance to Azure. IOW, they are dangling extended lifetime for existing SQL Server 2008 applications in front of organizations in order to get more people onto their cloud systems.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

What I did for the week ending 2018/07/07

I do not have much to report this week.

I've started the Microsoft Professional Cloud Administration course over at I've only done the very first units and have yet to form an opinion.

I'll be looking at learning a few things about Confluence in the upcoming weeks,as well.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

What I did for the week ending 2018/06/30

Over the last two weeks, I've been watching PASS Summit 2016 videos. No particular presentation really stands out and I've been watching presentations that cover topics outside of my core competencies, so I haven't been keeping an inventory.

I've signed up for an edX course on Azure. I expect this to take up all of my training time budget for the next few months. I've taken short online courses before, including Rhetoric, Learning and Spanish, but this will be my first time taking an edX course. Those low-intensity courses and required only a few hours a week, while (IIRC) the edX course materials state that I should budget 12 hours a week for the next three months. I'm excited to see how a more demanding course will work out.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

What I did for the week ending 2018/06/16

I have finished watching the PowerShell + DevOps Global Summit 2018 presentations on YouTube that caught my interest. If you have any interest in applied PowerShell, I suggest that you have a look at their playlist. there are nearly 60 presentations and I'm sure that something in there will interest you. If not, has many other presentations.

After finishing up the PowerShell presentations, I went looking for some good tutorials on Jira. I found a lot of marketing, but I didn't find much on useful, implementable details. Some of that seems to be due to Jira being flexible enough to do whatever you want. That's great, but my problem is that I'm not at the point where I know what I want. I will just endeavor to persevere on this front. 

For the past week or two, I've been spending more time with Trello than I had been. I had a ten minute look at Kanbanflow, which seems like a worthy competitor to Trello. All of this activity is the fault of my reading The Phoenix Project, which re-ignited my interest in thinking about work strategically.

The fact of the matter is that you can turn many information tools into a rough Kanban-style task manager. I use OneNote to do task management. I have been using methods based on GTD since I read David Allen's book many years ago, but I've been moving towards Kanban. (A benefit of using OneNote is that my notes on my tasks become part of what I search when I say to myself "Didn't I do this before?". If something is buried in Trello, I might not find it so easily. I might not even think to search Trello.) You could use text files in some folders for a crude task list. The web sites start to shine when you need to work as part of a team or need better reporting.

I also did a little DFS research, because I am curious as to how that works even though it isn't really my bread-and-butter. One of the things I learned was that DFS was introduced in Windows Server 2003. I thought that DFS was a more recent innovation and (maybe Windows Server 2008). It is good to know things. 

I've started looking through the SQLPASS Summit 2016 presentations. I identified about 60 presentations that looked interesting. I've started going through them. The stand-out presentation so far is Agile Development Fundamentals: Continuous Integration with SSDT, which was presented by Jon Boulineau. This is my new favorite "How to do SSDT" presentation. It covers SSDT basics, testing and deployment. I have been using SSDT since the days of "Data Dude" back around 2008 (or earlier) and I need to improve my use of SSDT to match Jon's.

(I can't publish direct links to the SQLPASS site because of the way their site is built. You will just have to log into the SQLPASS site and search for Jon's work.)

I have said this before, but I'll say it again: If you have any interest in SQL Server, you should join SQLPASS. They don't bother you very much and you will get access to hours and hours of free SQL presentations. Yes, much of the content is "old", but SQL Server doesn't move that fast and "older" doesn't mean "obsolete". I would avoid anything earlier than SQL Server 2014, unless you stuck on an older platform.The quality and focus of the SQLPASS presentations tends to be better than what you find randomly searching around on YouTube. Additionally, you don't have to weed out as many introductory presentations for newbies. Even if you are "just an analyst", there are enough presentations on reporting technologies for you to find something that you can use.

I am still finishing up Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise. I found the chapter discussing the 1976 Swine Flu incident interesting as I kind-of-just-barely remember that time.

Monday, June 11, 2018

What I did for the week ending 2018/06/09

I've watched so many of the Powershell + Devops Summit 2018 videos in the last week that I've lost track of the best ones. I won't bore you with a list. I'll just point you to the official Ashdar Partners twitter feed. The feed shows all of the videos that I've liked.

I have three more videos from the Summit that I want to watch. After that, I'll be switching focus to Jira for a while because one of my clients has adopted Jira and I feel a little lost.

After Jira, I'll be going back to the SQL PASS 2016 videos that I put aside a few months back. With my recent certification and the way that the IT universe seems to be going, I am starting to believe that Azure is the future.

I'm also on a kick to read more. I have a good local library and I should take more advantage of it. I have three branches within easy driving distance, including the main branch, and I have easy access to any book at any branch through their inter-branch loan system. After finishing "The Phoenix Project" last week, I am reading Nate Silver's "The Signal and the Noise". It is a lighter read than the book by Nassim Taleb that I read last year.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

What I did for the week ending 2018/06/02

I took advantage of the following learning opportunities:

  • PowerShell Team: Using PowerShell From a Browser to Manage Cloud Resources by Danny Maertens on YouTube
  • CSV, JSON and XML (Oh My!) by Jeff Hicks on YouTube
  • WebJEA: PowerShell driven Web Forms for Secure Self-Service by Mark Domansky on YouTube

Perhaps more interestingly...

Last week, the library didn't have the books I was actually looking for, so I picked up The Phoenix Project by Kim, et al. I should have read this book a couple of years ago. I've seen this book recommended as required reading for greater DevOps understanding a few times.

I've been following the DevOps movement for a while, at a distance. I haven't paid much attention to DevOps's underpinnings or the scope of it's ideas. People don't hire me to re-engineer their business processes. As I did with TDD over ten years ago, I have adopted what I can of DevOps, according to my understanding of it.

"DevOps" is usually sold to technologists as tools (open-source, closed-source or roll-your-own), or perhaps some tactical approaches to things. Tools are easy to sell. (If we are talking about open source tools, "sell" is metaphorical but someone still needs to convince you that you need that tool.). You put up a Kan-ban board, you use git, you install a CI/CD system and you are done. Frankly, I've seen tools come and go (ah...Borland...) and I'm jaded. Most tools do not last more than a few years. I've seen waterfall projects outlast the tools they were based on. Many tools are just old wine in new bottles. (A new text editor? Sure, I'll give it a go. Is it better than the old one? Yes. Is it revolutionary? No.)

Concepts are not easy to sell. The book pushes the DevOps concept well beyond my previous understanding. I feel that my understanding of what the DevOps folks are trying to do has been radically upgraded. It encompasses tools, tactics and corporate strategy. IT isn't just something that "the IT department does". IT involves much of, if not all of, a company. whether the company understands it or not. IT should be seen as a competitive asset and data is as much the life blood of the company as cash flow is, or chargebacks between departments are. I've read that "going DevOps" requires a change in mindset, but I'd never understood the true breadth of what would be required, including from people who traditionally have as little as possible to do with IT.

All of the book's stories about WIP, queued work and rework all ring true. My first job out of school was in a factory. I worked on testing programs and hardware. I didn't really see the factory's products as my worry, but my boss did. He worried about WIP all of the time. I would see him out on the manufacturing floors, counting the pallets of unfinished goods that were stacked all over the building and frowning. Just figuring out how much product was in the pipeline was a problem, they would conduct "inventory counts" a few times a year, when nearly all other plant work was frozen for a day or more. I saw firsthand the chaos that happened when "finished" goods started failing tests and had to be reworked. Those tests were run by the programs that I wrote.

I've made note of many of the books mentioned after the end of the novel. I'll be following up on them at my local library.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

What I did for the week ending 2018/05/26

I am slowly going through all of the PowerShell + DevOps Global Summit 2018 talks that I find interesting.

I took advantage of the following learning opportunities:

  • Whip Your Scripts into Shape: Optimizing PowerShell for Speed by Joshua King on YouTube
  • Application Provisioning with DSC and Octopus Deploy by Josh Duffney on YouTube
  • PlatyPS: PowerShell Help meets Markdown by Sergei Vorobev on YouTube
  • Defending against PowerShell Attacks-In theory and in practice by Lee Holmes on YouTube