T-SQL Tuesday #120 – What were you thinking?

T_SQL_Tuesday

Today’s topic, “What were you thinking?” is being hosted by Wayne Sheffield. Thanks Wayne! And this is the 10 year anniversary of T-SQL Tuesday. Time flies!

The Peter Principle

Have you ever heard of the Peter Principle? In essence one is promoted up either in a company or in their career to their level of incompetence.

Several years ago, I had to work with a very difficult person at a client. Let’s call her Susan. During the interview with the IT department she stated that everything was fine and they really didn’t need outside dba help. Well, the client was experiencing major stability issues with their website and they needed to get off of SQL2005 (upgraded from SQL2000) and onto SQL2012. There was also a long list of issues to be addressed and things came up too during this whole client engagement.

When I started, I was pulled aside by the IT Manager and told that Susan had several HR violations against her, mainly for shouting and arguing with people. So heads-up and tread lightly around her. She was older (maybe ~60+?) and I think that the company and people were either waiting for HR to fire her or she would get laid off. Either way, she was the only database administrator on the team. Other dba(s) had quit over the years because of her and the financial health of the company. I got to know the Director of Software Engineering pretty well and he flat out told me that his developers hated asking her for anything. In fact, many had stopped and would rather try to figure things out for themselves.

A Corner of the Institution

At one point I was flown out on a week long trip in the spring of 2012 to the client’s office in Santa Monica and had a chance to see Susan’s desk firsthand.

I tried to control my confusion and facial expressions but honestly I had a hard time trying to keep it together.

1. She was running Windows XP when everyone else in the company was running Windows 7. She said she couldn’t take the downtime to upgrade.

2. SSMS was connected to all of their instances using the IP address and sa login. When asked why, she said, “Per Microsoft best practice” <- this was a common refrain from her. When asked to provide a link, she never would.

3. She did everything via the GUI- barely typed any T-SQL code. It was like watching paint dry watching her work so slow.

4. The few technical books she did have were either SQL2000 or SQL2005. Nothing new, nothing about SQL2008 or SQL2012. I’m not judging but that doesn’t seem to me to be the bookshelf of a senior dba. Maybe she had a SQL library at home? My gut tells me no.

Other Bad Signs

Short (!) list. No SQL Agent jobs to run CHECKDB (S: it blocks users). Tempdb had 8 data and 8 log files (S: Per Microsoft best practice). All tables were heaps (S: it is not worth the time to create clustered indexes on ~350 tables. I won that battle but it sucked). Didn’t want to attend any of the Project Manager stand-up meetings regarding the migration to SQL2012 (S: I’m just too busy. But you are going to be managing this when we are gone. S: I’ll figure it out then).

All Good Things Must Come to an End

I was put into a bad situation. From me, we expanded the consulting team during the engagement to do a lot of work that needed to be done. Was the project successful? On all technical accounts, yes. Stability and performance were AWESOME when we were done. Upper management was very pleased with our efforts. The public end-users could see major speed improvements on the website too.

But the raw nerves and yelling… Yes, I initially got into a shouting match with her about not running CHECKDB (S: because it blocks users so we don’t run it) when they had many entries in msdb.dbo.suspect_pages. I got so fed up with her I said, “You know more than Paul Randal about CHECKDB?” (S: Who is Paul Randal?) I had to go above her head and won that battle too but it sucked.

Sometimes in life you have to work with difficult people and I’ve had my fair share. Be civil and professional when you can. Stick to facts. But when people don’t want to believe facts and it is harming the business, don’t be afraid to explain it to C-level executives on why something needs to be done.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Snow Duck

5_SnowDuck

Overview

Using inflatable structures is one way of being able to use ice as a building material. Sometimes an opportunity presents itself and one has to make time to jump in and grab it, despite not knowing what one is doing. And Happy Halloween!

Backstory – Winning a Duck from Idera Software

A while back, I entered a chat contest on Twitter sponsored by Idera Software. And I won! You have no idea the surprise I got when the receptionist at my work called me up and said there was a package for me. It was from a pool supply company in Houston.

I took it home and opened it up. It was this giant inflatable duck! Which happens to be the mascot of Idera Software in many versions.

My wife said, “What are you going to do with that thing? We don’t have a pool!”

And it sat in my garage until one day my old Boy Scout Troop I used to be a part of announced they were going to Cherry Creek State Park to go swimming and riding waverunners. Asked if I could come along and bring a toy…

So I aired it up, and barely shoehorned it into the back of the minivan.

I showed up and nonchalantly said, “What? Haven’t you seen a rubber ducky before?” It was the most ridiculous looking duck on the lake. You could see it from all around.

And that was the last time I used it.

Backstory – Ice Structures & Ice Instruments

I have been intrigued about using ice as a building material for a while. It is available nearly anywhere in the world.

Here is a cool (!) example: Construction of using air ribbed inflatable — Ice and Snow Lecture Hall.

And for the world’s largest display, China’s Ice City Harbin.

This winter ice castles are returning to Colorado and I am not going to miss it this year.

Note: visualizing ice on a grand scale is a past-time of mine. Engineering things like how does one freeze a lake solid? Not just the surface- the entire volume of water in a lake. Visions of creating, storing, and shipping ice. Building machines made out of ice.

A friend of mine also turned me on to this- ice instruments: Coolest Concert Ever? Hear Ice Instruments Play Beautiful Music | Short Film Showcase

Sub-Zero Opportunity

I knew this winter I wanted to play and experiment with some of my ideas. We recently had a few snow storms and sub-zero temperatures in the forecast. So the idea came to me to get outside and try something.

One of the only inflatable structures I have was a duck.

On more of a whim, I put together a plan of action into motion.

This is one of the few projects I have ever done where I didn’t have to buy anything beforehand!

My plan:

1) Inflate duck on driveway or in the garage
2) Toss over fence into the backyard
3) Create work area in snow
4) Fill buckets of water then into a tub
5) Spray duck using bilge pump and garden hose w/ mist setting
6) Repeat as water freezes
7) Avoid eye contact w/ neighbors 🙂
8) Evaluate experiment

So on number 7, a neighbor who was smoking on his back patio saw me walking a square pattern in the snow.

“What are doing?”

I waved, “I’m building an ice sculpture!”

Silence.

I lost count but I probably sprayed over twenty coats of water. Waited a few minutes between each one. Ran back inside to watch parts of the World Series.

The first picture above; it reminds me of that scene from The Shining where Jack Nicholson is frozen at the end 🙂

Before winter officially sets in, chalk up one experiment in the books.

Conclusion

The bilge pump I used didn’t have much pressure so spraying water took a lot longer than I had thought. If the ice doesn’t melt off today, I might try covering it with snow.

One of my next ice experiments might involve inflatable air mattresses we use for camping and guests.

Go ahead and call me crazy. I love ice and thinking of ways of using it. Pictures follow.

1_SnowDuck

2_SnowDuck3_SnowDuck4_SnowDuck6_SnowDuck7_SnowDuck8_SnowDuck9_SnowDuck

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Certifications are Dead- Long Live Certifications!

This months’ T-SQL Tuesday is being hosted by Alex Yates on the topic of Changing Your Mind. Thanks Alex!

Opening Thoughts

Over the years I have had a love/hate relationship with certifications. I love the discipline required to complete formal education. The hard work one has to do in order to finish something is within one’s own control. Then there is the issue of cost and time. Today it seems like Microsoft has chosen to emphasize just in time learning in the form of micro-courses vs long and formal study paths.

Failed MCDBA – Twice

Back in the day, shortly after graduate school, I wanted to continue my formal education and work on this certification stuff. At the time there was this certification called Microsoft Certified Database Administrator – MCDBA. Sadly I didn’t have a lot of experience at the time working with SQL Server and I was focused on using the GUI (instead of knowing the T-SQL behind it) and I failed the test- twice. I was burned out and disillusioned from that experience- I thought I really knew the material. I read the books and worked the examples. After that I started digging into T-SQL more and more behind the scenes and relying less on the GUI.

Enter Stage Left- The Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP)

After the death of the MCDBA certification, we saw the rise of a new cert, the MCITP- Database Development or Database Administration path. I was still buying and reading a lot of books that were more pertinent to my job and work. It wasn’t until I decided to work on getting some certs (SQL2012) that I began to study for them again. Long story short- I went in cold to test my level of understanding with the expectation I would fail both tests then study what I was weak on then take them for real, a second time. I barely passed both on the first try (!) and was struck with this odd feeling that I hadn’t earned it because I hadn’t studied for it. I did however have years of experience but it just didn’t feel like a planting the flag victory like I wanted.

Other Deaths

Death of the Microsoft Certified Master program (and dreams of that too), death of Microsoft Press titles by Microsoft employees, death of MCITP and finally death of my dream of data scientist via the Microsoft Professional Program (MPP).

If I had a lot of money, I would take an on-line degree program like this one in data science offered by a university.

Note this also happens to be the same school that we are hosting for SQL Saturday Denver #908 this weekend.

One Academy Dies While Another Flourishes

The website for MPP was https://academy.microsoft.com so who knows if they will maintain that URL. In other news, Microsoft Learn is the new destination for all content, which is free. AWESOME! The paid for content is on Pluralsight and mostly focused on Azure- there has been a plethora of courses recently released on it, all based on this new concept of roles. I have been an avid fan of Pluralsight and will continue to do so.

I am into Unreal Engine as some of you are aware. Their site is chock full of great and free content and continues to grow: https://academy.unrealengine.com (a free login is required to access that site).

Interesting to me that both companies, Microsoft and Epic Games are now spending a lot of money developing courses that we can take for free.

Closing Thoughts

Technology is changing so fast that courses and documentation are having a harder and harder time to keep up. As a result, the number of technical books being published is declining compared to years past. Companies are pushing nano, micro, call it whatever VERY short courses (measured in hours) when compared to formal college level courses (measured in several weeks). Are the new role-based certifications/course completion badges & bling in my future? Time will tell. I must say I do like the short format in sections as it fits my pomodoro style of learning and attention span. Is my mind changed on certifications? It would seem that bigger forces outside of my control have already changed it for me. We are now living in an age where one can’t just be one thing- there is no longer such a thing as a pure DBA or T-SQL developer. We are being forced to perform multiple roles in order to try to stay ahead and continue to build and grow in our careers.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Beacons of Akela

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jungle_Book_and_Scouting

Long ago, I had a gelling of an idea.

I had chills when I saw the movie The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

The sequence of the human element of immense (and boring!) resposibility of The Becons of Gondor. Much like many of our Armed Forces on alert status.

Now, there has been scientific debate on both the merits and possibilities of the feasibility of The Becons of Gondor. Could it really have worked? Could it punch through fog? How long would it burn brightly? Etc, etc…

Now, for a real-world proposal.

Here in the USA, I came up with an idea. From the beginnings of the Rocky Mountains in the state of New Mexico all of the way up into Canada, could we build a multi-thousand mile Beacons of Akela? And could it actually work and how well could it work? Could we send a message from New Mexico, into the farthest reaches of Canada along the Rocky Mountain range, and send a message back?

I believe the answer is YES.

It would require some extensive modifications to what has been done in the past and I have several ideas on how to do it. And a TON of logistics and coordination.

It would be a Morse Code message repeatedly transmitted from mountain top to mountain top, using nothing more than sunlight. A sophisticated heliograph. My version would use a proprietary design such that one does not have to rely on the orientation of the sun during the day to transmit messages. Ideally ZERO electricity used.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heliograph

So not only would it be quicker than the Becons of Gondor, it could transmit messages as well.

I fear that this technology could be used for nefarious purposes and I have hesitated and not shared this idea for a very long time. If I died today and all of my fantastic ideas died with me, then all would be lost, so here is a bone 🙂

With that being said, there are other adaptations of this idea I have spent time thinking about. Like using starlight too…

Will I ever see The Becons of Akela come to light (haha)? Time will tell.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dear 20 Year Old Me – T-SQL Tuesday #115

This month’s topic is being hosted by Mohammad Darab – thanks Mohammad!

Conclusion – not sure 20 year old me would have heeded my advice as I was still growing up and thought I knew everything. But here goes…

Dallas/Plano 1986-1989

After flunking out of college because I was partying too much I eventually ended up working at Discount Tire. (I worked for them for over six years, including working through college. I love the smell of tires in the morning. Smells like (maybe NSFW) Victory!)   The first store I worked at was off Avenue K. During a trip to SQL Saturday Dallas last year, I took a trip down memory lane. The Discount Tire store had re-located a block south but the old building was still there.

There is an old phrase which attempts to capture a sentiment that originated from a book by Thomas Wolfe – “You Can’t Go Home Again“. As time marches on our memories tend to fade and we remember with nostalgia things from our youth. Taking trips down memory lane has it pluses and minuses.

Changing tires in the Texas summer is back-breaking work. I can’t tell you the number of metal splinters, smashed knuckles, tires exploding in your face I survived.

After work, we would pitch in to buy beer and then hang-out super stinky, dirty and all and drink beer for a while. Myself and others were clearly under-age.

I remember one day our Manager (Dave) came out of the showroom and into the edge of the bays. Faked looking at some tires w/ tickets needing work. Used it as an excuse to cut a huge fart then go back into the showroom. OMG, we about died. We were already working on the edge of intense heat, sweat, concentration and safety and now this? He probably drank a lot of beer the night before…

I also remember another night we went out to a bar after work to play pool. I got smashed and he took me home. Dave was good people. Sometime ago I started to search out old friends, acquaintances, to either re-connect or just see how they ended up. Sadly, I saw that he died in 2014.

I bounced around to other stores as they rotated people around to see different management styles, volume of customers, etc. It was as this time I did something stupid that would affect and haunt me for the rest of my life. I drank too much at a party and committed a crime- I got a DWI. I wasn’t even 21. My boss and girlfriend posted bail and came to visit me in jail. You have no idea what it was like to call your parents to ask for help. One of the lowest points of my life.

It was at this time I was re-located to another store managed by a gentleman named Jim Fraley. He was a strong Christian and ran a tight ship. He saw how smart and skilled I was but couldn’t stand that I would show up to work hungover at times. He hated to see people waste their skills and talents. One day he said you are coming to church with us. Not like, hey, by the way, if you have time, would you like to come to church with us kinda thing. It was almost forced and I accepted. I knew that I wasn’t right with my life and wanted to make things better but couldn’t do it on my own. It was also at this time I began going back to school via Richland Community College after work (dear Lawd I smelled and had baked sweat on me; I didn’t have time to go home and take a shower; I hated it) and began the slow and long climb out of my own personal Hell.

During this time my girlfriend broke up with me (crazy as this sounds, we are friends on Facebook today and she has her own family and I have mine).

I have this thing about closure and hard edges. I went to one last party. I wanted to give things up and go out on one last fling. Partied hard and woke up in the back of my car- couldn’t afford to violate probation.

Done. Quit alcohol, smoking pot, cigarettes and whatever else.

When my friends heard I went clean, I got used for being a safe driver. Okay for a while but then I really resented it. I felt like I was being used by my “friends”.

In the months that followed, I spent less and less time with my biker friends and others.

Who Are Your Friends?

Realized I had surrounded myself with people who loved to party hard like I did.
When I quit partying hard, I was suddenly alone. Spent less and less time hanging out with my old friends, even though they were cool and didn’t mind I had gone clean. I missed getting invited to parties. Or showing up and jumping into the action. Realizing how stupid and ridiculous people behaved when you are straight but they were still trying to chemically blast off from reality.

30 Years

Today I can say I haven’t touched illegal drugs since 1989, 30 YEARS. I still have alcohol once in while. And yes, since pot is legal in my home state of Colorado I still haven’t touched it even though it is legal, but not at the federal level.

Thoughts

This was a hard post to write. I fear and don’t want any of my kids following in my footsteps and I hope and pray that they don’t.

Tom Roush once told me to write stories, even under the fear of someone (kids!) finding out about uncomfortable things about one’s past.

Get over it, he said. Write.

There are some gaps and omissions during this timeline but those will eventually be told later in some kind of memoir or autobiography or something.

Advice?

Live frugal. Invest and save your money. Go fly a kite. Work hard but take time to smell the roses. Be OK with not having everything figured out before you can figure it out. Choose to spend more time in books than with questionable friends. Pray more. Read The Bible and ask questions of fellow believers. Get a computer!

My lunch routine was to go home, make some Macaroni and Cheese, then eat Blue Bell Ice Cream. Rinse and repeat.

Night time was either Whataburger or a flavor of Hamburger Helper (I liked Cheeseburger) and more Blue Bell Ice Cream. I somehow managed to survive.

Today, and now you know, the rest of the story. Paul Harvey.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Virtual Reality Mind Palaces Using Oculus Quest

Oculus Quest Arrives – FINALLY!!!

This last week saw the consumer launch of the Oculus Quest ($399 US). I received mine and after playing RoboRecall and TiltBrush, I successfully side-loaded (I’m already a registered developer, it is free to become one and so activating Developer mode was already available to me) one of my picture galleries; my 25th Wedding Anniversary.

I was pleasantly surprised that all of the work I have done teaching myself Unreal Engine and figuring out how to deploy to first GearVR then Oculus Go, it was all coming together. However, both GearVR and Oculus Go are 3DOF (degree of freedom) headsets. Meaning that using a Bluetooth game pad controller, one can only move around using ONLY the game pad controller, you can swivel your head to change your view but movement has to come from the controller itself. More about something radically different in a moment.

The ‘Quest is a true 6DOF wireless headset. It is configured using a phone app. So not only does one get to move your head, you can also move with your feet and the scene will react accordingly.

Now I already have the original CV1 Rift and so for the moment I’m not interested in buying the new Rift S. It is a wired 6DOF desktop rig and movement with your feet is extremely limited and it uses a Guardian system to define your play area. If you go outside the area, the screen will go dim- this is by design for safety.

Enter Stage Left – A New Discovery

While I was eagerly awaiting my ‘Quest delivery, via Twitter I stumbled across an interesting video. It shows someone who temporarily DISABLED the Guardian system on the ‘Quest and was able to walk around using his feet in a video game! Here is the video– it is in French but there are English subtitles.

So on my first outing under a cloudy sky to try this at a local grassy park, I didn’t know how to disable the Guardian system at first so I just tried to define an extremely large play area. It didn’t work. So I had to do some searches and eventually figured out how to disable it.

Once I did, I tried again. It was a near religious experience for me! I put away the controllers and I found myself walking around inside of my art gallery, using JUST my feet, hearing the birds and feeling a gentle breeze blowing. Magical!

I have some family members who are extremely sensitive to motion sickness. Having them look at my previous creations was unsettling at times.

HOWEVER! We tried again using the ‘Quest outside of my home on the sidewalk and guess what? NO MOTION SICKNESS! Because the scene is moving exactly with your feet.

My church has an indoor gym the size of a basketball court. I tried it out there and it works! Although I have realized that I built it for VR and not a hybrid IRL (in real life)/VR so I need to work on the dimensions a bit. I was able to walk down an entire row using the entire length of the court but only three rows across as my gallery is pretty wide. So three out of five rows isn’t bad 🙂

“Danger Will Robinson, Danger!”

The Oculus manual clearly states that you can damage the sensors/camera and the ‘Quest is intended for inside use only- outside use is Prohibited. With that said, if one tries this outside, it would need to be a under a solid overcast sky or before sunrise or after sunset else one could damage the headset and/or void the warranty.

Also when you turn off the Guardian system, it is to be temporary and you must turn it back on. In fact, I found out that even with it the ‘Quest powered on and switching between users, the Guardian system can come back on automatically. So heads-up.

One more thing- Oculus may decide at any time the remove the ability to disable the Guardian system so this new thing that I’m excited about might come to a screeching halt at any time 😦

Enter Stage Left – Mind Palaces Using Virtual Reality

For those of you who don’t know what a mind palace is, here is a link.

In the past, I have built some small mind palaces using Unreal Engine for my own purposes. These have always been fixed seated experiences.

Now, if one is careful, one can create mind palaces that one can walk around in. This is a huge development. The key trick in using mind palaces is to use a physical location that one knows extremely well. Using a video game takes away from some of the physical spatial navigation aspects.

But not anymore. Mapping VR to a physical space allows one to be completely immersed. This is different than AR (augmented reality). While AR can be used to build mind palaces, those are very expensive headsets (like HoloLen2) and generally not available to the general public.

I’ll freely admit it is very time consuming to learn how to use a video game engine. And how to import pictures, 3D objects, lighting, navigation, etc.

I will also say that I am not a game designer by trade but I did manage to teach myself everything to this point on my own using videos, books and on-line courses. If I can do it, then anybody can do it.

In Conclusion

Not everyone needs or wants to build mind palaces using virtual reality and being able to walk around inside of them using your feet and looking all around a digitally created world. I get that.

I also get that using VR for those who are into mind palaces, this is a game changer, no pun intended.

Now that the cat is out of the bag, the genie is out of the bottle, (insert other trite colloquialisms here, haha) I plan on doing a lot more with mind palaces both indoor and outdoor.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

PROJECT SQLImaginarium – 1 Year Update

About

This is a post for T-SQL Tuesday #114 – Puzzle Party and is being hosted by @MattMcgiffen. Thanks Matthew!

TLDR; I have only moved the needle a little bit. If I’m being open and honest, not much interest has been expressed about this project. Using virtual reality (VR) to explain technical topics at times feels like a hammer in search of nails. But it works for me so I’m sticking with it and will continue to build on it.

Back Story

My post from one year ago: https://toddkleinhans.wordpress.com/2018/05/09/and-so-it-begins-project-sqlimaginarium/

I still believe in my key points in that post. Some of the tech has changed and I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Oculus Quest.

Today

My skills using Unreal Engine 4 (UE4) and VR have improved since last year. Note that I don’t use UE4 for a living- this is all in my spare time. No one is paying me to build this and I have other personal projects all vying for my time. The good news is that I have come up with a plethora of new ideas on how to solve certain problems that I didn’t have a clue about last year! And there have been some interesting new technologies which are soon to be available.

Pixel Streaming

One of the perennial challenges in video game distribution is just that- how does one easily get their game into the hands of its customers? And how to get it installed, does it meet certain prerequisites, etc.

I just so happen to be giving a presentation tonight at the Denver/Boulder Unreal Engine Group on this very topic: pixel streaming.

Key takeaway? NO SOFTWARE TO INSTALL!!! The caveat though is it might not support a really high frame rate. And you must be using a modern 64-bit browser. Here is a link to a company called FURIOOS. So what they do is spin up and tear-down a virtual machine w/ GPU PER SESSION. And it works on all devices including mobile. So if I can get a hold of a decent Azure vm with a NVIDIA GPU which supports NVENC then I might be able to play around with it.

If the set-up runs locally on a machine, then one could be a tour guide and have everyone see what you are wanting them to see. Very interesting possibilities! It will require a very high machine- think new laptop with RTX card or a desktop with a new RTX card. Something I do not have yet 🙂

Oculus Quest – No Guardian System

One should have the guardian system ON. Turning it off can lead to injuries. But as this video shows (in French but has English subtitles), one can literally walk around inside of a video game. So yes, I’m thinking about how this could be used to let people walk around and explore SQLImaginarium.

Call to Action

As I mentioned in my post from last year, I need ideas please. Use the hashtag #SQLImaginarium on Twitter to post if you have something to share. My dream is for this to eventually be a community project to help people learn and explore about our data platform.

Thanks!

–Todd Kleinhans

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment