Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Instant Gratification

I've been gigging as a SQL Server DBA for a long, long time -- more than twice as long than I've held any other job. Everyone knows about the economic situation, which certainly seems to have cut back positions, compared to 2007 or so. As others have noticed, it does seem that power is devolving away from DBAs running boutique databases. The "No SQL movement" is one aspect of this, and the marketing push for SQL 2008 R2 leans toward Business Intelligence (BI) features, such as the "self-service" BI features and the older SSRS and SSIS features. Improvements to the data engine, my bread and butter, are minimal and frankly not very exciting.

With that in mind, it seems prudent to find a way to not be so much of a one-trick pony. I did a lot of development earlier in my career. Code from that era seems to qualify as "legacy" now, so migration projects might be forthcoming, perhaps there might even be a mini-boom in such work, along the lines of the COBOL work in the late nineties.

At the moment, I'm primarily interested in small projects, web development, legacy VB and Access applications, Sharepoint, SQL Azure. I do need to knock some of the rust off of the languages I used 10 or 15 years ago. This means that I would want access to new and old software, and might want to run my own servers as VHDs. Plus, there are new versions of Visual Studio, SQL Server and Office coming.

With all of that in mind, the sensible thing to do seems to be to go with an MSDN subscription. This gives me access to a wide variety of software, including old versions of things.

I think that the last time I spent for my own MSDN "stuff" was before the annual licensing scheme started, when you could still get pretty much everything on a single CD for $200 or so. At that time, a CD-ROM drive was a rare option and set you back another $200. Since then, I've avoided the subscriptions, even after I started out as a freelancer. I was only focused on SQL Server, and didn't spend very much time in Visual Studio. Most of my clients have had various kinds of volume/enterprise licencing and they would discourage the connection of foreign laptops to their corporate networks. I only needed QA or SSMS and my favorite text editor (currently notepad++, previously it was Textpad) and I was set. Lastly, I would tell myself that I would rather spend the money on SQLPASS.

Times have changed. Smaller companies seem to have more things to do, and those things tend to be development and not administration. I haven't gone to SQLPASS in several years. Relying on give-away versions of Microsoft's products from Microsoft's dog-and-pony shows just isn't cutting it anymore.

Being the "Dar" in Ashdar, I'm fully empowered to spend a little money, I placed an order with NewEgg for a copy of VS Pro with a MSDN subscription on a Friday and then waited patiently through the weekend. The package arrived on Tuesday. Tuesday night was taken up with hurriedly running errands before the snowstorm hit.

On Wednesday, I ripped the package open and dutifully entered various information on the MSDN subscriptions web site. I've never actually had to activate an MSDN subscription before, and I was expecting instant gratification. Once the web site pronounced me as activated, I tried to login to the MSDN subscription management site and found that it had no idea who I was.


So I waited for a while, and checked my email. Nothing.

While waiting, I put a couple of books up for sale on Amazon. I received prompt confirmation of this, direct from Amazon, but I still had nothing from Microsoft.

So, I waited some more. And then I started with the thinking...
Should I be getting an email?
Maybe I missed something on the web site.
Did I mistype my email address?
I must have done something wrong.

So, I found the email address for support and sent them an email. I received a very prompt reply, explaining that my request would answered in a few days. This really isn't the answer I want to get for something that cost twice as much as my Thinkpad.

OK, this is just the universe testing my patience. I tried logging into the subscription site again, using various numbers from my retail package and my activation confirmation code. No dice. At this point, it's been about three hours and still no email from Microsoft. That doesn't seem right at all. It's been three hours!

Expecting a long wait in a phone queue, which is pretty much my definition of hell, I broke down and called support. I must say that I got to a human pretty quickly and he explained the situation to me in short order.

It turns out that it takes 2 or 3 days for activations to be processed, after which I will receive an email. Details in the email will allow me to login as I expect.

It just seems odd that something like this would take very long at all.

I'm guessing that they are doing nightly batch processing of new activations. Can anyone enlighten me?

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