Some of you who are my age will recognize the reference in the title as a line from the movie “Top Gun.” Most of you will probably look at the title and think that this blog post is going to be about project management. Unfortunately, you may be disappointed to learn that it is really more of a personal blog post – one about life management.

Not too be confused with the impact of spending a summer in Tucson :) (www.flickr.com/photos/nickdouglas/58786813)

Not too be confused with the impact of spending a summer in Tucson :) (www.flickr.com/photos/nickdouglas/58786813)

 

Much of this year, I have pretty much felt like the title. This last week and weekend, I actually came to realize the impact that moving at this pace for as long as I have has had on me and, more importantly, my family. This weekend was the first time in a long time that I have truly taken a weekend off from work. Initially, it was more out of exhaustion and truly being burned out that I did it, but I came to realize that I got a lot more than rest out of it. It was the first time in a long time that I truly took the time to laugh with and thoroughly enjoy my family without having things like work, studying for MCITP exams, the PASS Virtual Chapter that I am a leader of, etc. nagging at me in the back of my mind. I discovered that you need to be very careful not to let outside responsibilities and activities take over your life and cause you to take your family for granted. Luckily, I have an extremely wonderful and supportive wife and great kids who have been very understanding throughout this hectic year. Such a support structure is a gift that we have to be very careful not to over utilize.

 

In this time where job security is probably at its lowest level in several generations, we have to be careful to leave time for our families and loved ones while also trying to hold on to our jobs. It is easy to lose focus and not give the proper amount of time and attention to those we love because they are not the proverbial squeaky wheel when we have things like projects, training, work travel, conferences, etc. tugging on us. It is a difficult balancing act to be sure, but one that I believe will pay dividends over and over the better we become at it. The thing we have to realize is that our loved ones will probably be the last ones to call us on this, so we have to make sure to be vigilant in keeping things balanced. Because of this, I have decided that even though resolutions are made at the beginning of the year, I am going to start mine early and resolve to try to cut down on the outside activities that have kept me from fully enjoying my family and managing the balance in my life. I think that not only will everyone in my family be better for it, but that I will be more productive and happy in the activities that I do decide to continue engaging in.

 
 | Posted by tledwards | Categories: Personal, Uncategorized | Tagged: |

PASS has a great slate this year – all of the candidates have strengths that will bring value to the PASS organization. I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with Allen Kinsel since March of this year and thought I’d take the opportunity to share why I think that he would be an excellent Board Member.

 

Professionalism – Now this isn’t to say that Allen can’t fully appreciate a ‘colorful’ joke or that there aren’t times that he needs to rant. He’s human like everyone else. In the dealings (that I’ve been a part of) with vendors, Microsoft, volunteers, etc., he’s listened and been respectful. He is able to ask the tough questions and make the comments that need to be heard without coming off as aggressive. While that should be a quality that we should expect of professionals, unfortunately it isn’t always the case. I feel that it’s important for leadership to know the difference between reactionary venting about a perceived wrong and providing the community with comprehensive, balanced information.

 

Transparency – I know that this is a big issue for most of the PASS community. Allen’s blog posts show a consistent effort to keep the community aware of what the Program Committee is up to, the decisions that have been made and the reasons for those decisions.

 

The status quo – Throughout the process of putting together the Summit, we’ve been asking ourselves questions: Does this work? Is it efficient/effective? Is it necessary? Do we need to change it? Allen’s definitely not going through the motions here and I doubt that he would on the Board of Directors either.

 

Involving the community – It should be apparent from Allen’s latest posts (here and here) that he has been striving to increase community involvement in the PASS Summit. The latest experiment, with the community choice sessions, seems to have been extremely well received. Without putting words in Allen’s mouth, I think that he feels that it’s the PASS Summit, so the PASS community should have the opportunity to make some choices about the content delivered there.

 

Working with volunteers – We can start with this – I was and still am a noob as far as the Program Committee is concerned. I had attended one PASS Summit (last year) and my volunteer experience with PASS was negligible. Why was I given the opportunity to work on the Program Committee in the capacity that I am now? I asked to help. He recognizes the need for volunteers and the value that they provide. After the abstract selection teams were finished and the selected abstracts had been announced, Allen went back and had conference calls with all of the teams to get their input on what worked, what needed to be changed and what would make this process better.

 

Allen doesn’t walk on water. He doesn’t travel to the Summit by way of a winged unicorn. His supply of pixie dust is paltry or maybe non-existent. I may have seen him consume bacon, but it was way too late in the night (or early in the morning) for me to be sure. I do know that I have respect for Allen. I’m constantly impressed by his continued enthusiasm about the possibilities of PASS to make a difference for data professionals. Don’t take my word for it – read his blog; read his answers on the election forums. Without question, I’ll be voting for him in the upcoming elections. I think you should, too.

 | Posted by tledwards | Categories: PASS | Tagged: , |

Who is PASS, really?

20 August 2010

After attending the PASS Summit last year, I made a decision to become more active in the PASS Community. During the Summit, I had the opportunity to meet so many incredible people from the community – chapter leaders, regional mentors, speakers, board members and just normal folks like me.

As many of you know, I’ve been a part of the Program Committee for the last six months. Originally, I was tapped to head up a task team – a group that would work on projects that had been on the radar, but hadn’t had the manpower to get them completed. Along the way, I became more involved with other aspects of the Program Committee – the things that need to happen so that the PASS Summit can occur.

I think I was sucked in by the vision of the weekly meetings being wonderful opportunities in which we were magically transported to a beautiful meadow with full-on double rainbows, prancing unicorns and woodland nymphs presenting us with bacon-wrapped treats. It was that, sometimes, but it also was long hours, endless emails, looming deadlines and seemingly insurmountable roadblocks. Even with those, the thought of being involved in pulling together a valuable, enjoyable event for the community pushed us forward. I had the opportunity to work with a huge number of volunteers (many of whom I’ve never met face to face) that put in extraordinary effort and working with members from PASS HQ that were very helpful and hardworking.

Reading the tweets and blogs over the last few days makes me wonder if I’ve been duped. I’m continually seeing that PASS has failed and that PASS doesn’t want to get it right and how people are frustrated with PASS. Apparently PASS is some evil, faceless organization that has committing mayhem and creating obstacles as its sole agenda. I’ve listened while people close to me have become disenchanted with PASS as a community, not because of decisions that have been made, but by the reactions of the community members in these last few days.

I’ve been accused of being a pollyanna before and probably will be now, but I thought PASS was more than the BOD and committees. I thought PASS was the people that lead and contribute to user groups and virtual chapters, speakers, volunteers, Summit and SQLSaturday attendees and all of the rest of the people that participate with PASS in some manner. Things have happened that I disagree with and missteps have been made. I’ve voiced my opinion when I thought it was necessary and tried to address issues with the people that inolved – I strive to listen and understand the reasons behind decisions just as I hope that they listen and try to understand my points. In any large group of passionate, intelligent professionsals, there will always be disagreement. The only difference is how that dissent is expressed and handled.

If I were a data professional that was just beginning to read blogs and get involved with Twitter, I seriously doubt that I would join PASS. I definitely wouldn’t volunteer for anything PASS related. So if you really believe that PASS is irrevocably broken, walk away – people will stop joining and stop volunteering and PASS will eventually fade away.

For me, PASS is the community of its members. That community is valuable to me, so for now, I will continue to volunteer and continue to suggest changes. I will continue to believe that the vast majority of PASS is committed to making this community a valuable organization.

 | Posted by tledwards | Categories: Discussion, PASS | Tagged: , |

I’ve never had the opportunity to be on the abstract selection committee, so it was interesting to see the process in action. To be clear, I was not on one of the selection committees, but I am on the Program Committee so I was still involved in the process.

The abstract selection committees are chosen out of the group of people that apply to volunteer for the Program Committee. We work to ensure that each team includes at least one person that has been on an abstract selection team in the past. Our hope is that they can provide some additional guidance. We also provide at least one training session to go over the tools and answer any initial questions.

Prior to the call to speakers, the number of allocated sessions are set. They are allocated in total to fit the number of rooms that we have available. That total number is then split between the tracks (Application and Database Development, BI Architecture, Development and Administration, BI Client Reporting and Delivery Topics, Enterprise Database Administration and Deployment and Professional Development) to help make certain that we provide a balanced Summit selection.

Once the call to speakers closed, we knew that the abstract review committees were going to be in for a lot of work. Here are the numbers that we were looking at:

Total # of regular session abstracts submitted: 513
# of regular session community slots allocated: 72

Doing the math, that means that only 14% of the abstracts submitted were going to be selected. Within the tracks, that percentage ranged from 11% to 18%.

During the review process, the individuals on each team go through the abstracts in their track and rate them on 4 different areas – Abstract, Topic, Speaker and Subjective. Each of these areas are rated using a 1-10 scale and there is an area for comments. The abstract section has to do with, among other things, whether the abstract was complete (were session goals identified?), clear (was it easy to understand what the session would be about?) and interesting. The topic referred to the interest in and relevancy of the chosen topic. As far as the speaker – the abstract review teams had access to a report that provided previous Summit evaluation data for previous Summit speakers. They could also draw on personal knowledge or other information that they had access to. All of the individual scores added up to a total rating per abstract for the team.

Once the individual team members were finished with the evaluations, they came together as a team to rank the sessions. Along with looking at the total rating, they also looked at the different topics that were covered to ensure that the sessions covered a broad range of topics. Once the abstracts were ranked, the teams updated the session status to Approved, Alternate or Considered (Not accepted). If the status was Considered, the teams provided a reason as to why the abstract was not selected.

At that point the list of sessions came back to the Program Committee managers. We made certain the correct number of sessions per track were chosen and that no speakers had more than two sessions. There were a couple of cases where speakers had more than two sessions – for these cases, we went back to the teams for additional selections.

That’s it. Well, I guess I mean, those are all of the steps – it’s a ton of work and I’m grateful to everyone involved for all of their hard work. We recognize that there are probably ways to improve the process and we’re in the process of setting up meetings with all of the teams to get their input. I hope this provides clarification to some of the questions that people might have about the abstract selection process.

 | Posted by tledwards | Categories: PASS | Tagged: , |

July is definitely a painful time to be in Tucson.  It’s hotter than all get out and monsoon season has usually started, so for awhile we have heat AND humidty.  Oh joy.  Fortunately we have some SQL

At least this calendar has green on it...

At least this calendar has green on it...

Server based events coming up to take our mind off of the disagreeable weather.

 

Tim’s heading up the new incarnation of the PASS Performance VC.  On July 6, Jason Strate (Twitter/Blog)  is going to be presenting a webcast for them entitled: ‘Performance Impacts Related to Different Function Types’.  It should be a great session.

 

On July 17, Phoenix is having it’s first SQLSaturday.  That in and of itself is pretty exciting, but Tim and I are going to be presenting two sessions there.  This is our first time presenting, so it’ll be a great learning opportunity for us and a potential opportunity for up and coming hecklers.   If you’re somewhere around Phoenix, you should take advantage of the opportunity.  If you’re not around Phoenix, but want to see what it would feel like to step into an oven, come on out.  (see note below)

 

Then on July 21st, Quest is holding another Virtual Training Event on Performance Monitor and Wait Events.  Brent Ozar (Twitter/Blog), Kevin Kline (Twitter/Blog), Buck Woody (Twitter/Blog) and Ari Weil (Twitter) will be presenting.   It should make for an interesting and potentially hilarious training event.  Aside from it being a great training event, it’s relevant here because they’ll be presenting live from beautiful Tucson.  Hopefully we’ll be able to meet them for dinner and take them to another top-notch Old Pueblo eatery.

 

One final note – the final session lineup for the PASS Summit 2010 will be finalized in July.    This is due to a huge amount of great work by the volunteers from the Program Committee.  If it’s June and you’re reading this, send some good thoughts their way – they’re busy.

 

 

Update:  The SQLSaturday in Phoenix has been postponed until Jan/Feb 2011.  Hopefully many more people will want to come to Phoenix when it’s not 110 degrees out.

The ability to lock pages in memory is used on 64-bit systems to help prevent the operating system from paging out SQL Server’s working set.  This may be enabled when the DBA starts seeing errors like the following:

 

"A significant part of sql server process memory has been paged out. This may result in a performance degradation."

 

If you’re running SQL Server 2005/2008 Enterprise, you would take the steps to lock pages in memory and you’re done with it.   If you’re on SQL Server 2005/2008 Standard Edition, you still have a ways to go.  The ability to lock pages in memory for standard

This flag will not help in this situation

This flag will not help in this situation

edition is handled through  a trace flag.  For SQL Server 2005 SP3, you need to apply CU4 .  For SQL Server 2008 SP1, you need to apply CU2.    Once those CUs have been applied, set trace flag 845 as a startup parameter.  Here’s a good ServerFault question that explains how to set a trace flag as a startup parameter.

 

Once the trace flag was enabled, the memory issues were solved.   Day saved, once again. :)  

 

As with anything, this has the potential to degrade system performance.   In this article, scroll to the section entitled “Important considerations before you assign “Lock Pages in memory” user right for an instance of a 64-bit edition of SQL Server”.  Read it thoroughly prior to making any changes to your production systems.

I always thought that Mars was a planet, but apparently it also has to do with multiple pending requests within a single SQL Server connection.  MARS (Multiple Active Result Sets) was introduced in SQL Server 2005 and provided the ability to handle these multiple requests.  Like

Apparently this isn't the only Mars out there

Apparently this isn't the only Mars out there

anything else, though, it has to be used correctly.

 

About a week ago, I started seeing the following error on one of my servers:

 

DESCRIPTION:  The server will drop the connection, because the client driver has sent multiple requests while the session is in single-user mode. This error occurs when a client sends a request to reset the connection while there are batches still running in the session, or when the client sends a request while the session is resetting a connection. Please contact the client driver vendor.

 

After digging around and talking to some of the developers in house, I found that they were making use of MARS, but not always correctly.  To avoid the error above,  ”MultipleActiveResultSets=True” needs to be added to the connection string.  Adding that seems to have fixed the issues.

I ran across an installation issue with SQL Server 2008 on a Windows Server 2008 server the other day that baffled me a little bit.  I was installing an additional instance of SQL Server 2008 on a server that already had a SQL Server 2008 instance and right before the installation completed, it died with the error:  “A MOF Syntax error occurred.”  Further investigation into the Setup Bootstrap logs gave this detail:

An error occurred while processing item 1 defined on lines 14 – 16 in file D:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL10.TMS_MODELING\MSSQL\Binn\etwcls.mof.transformed:

 

2010-05-18 13:41:02 Slp: Compiler returned error 0×800700a4Error Number: 0×800700a4, Facility: Win32

 

2010-05-18 13:41:02 Slp: Description: No more threads can be created in the system.

 

2010-05-18 13:41:02 Slp:

 

2010-05-18 13:41:02 Slp: Sco: Compile operation for mof file D:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL10.TMS_MODELING\MSSQL\Binn\etwcls.mof.transformed failed. Exit code 3

 

2010-05-18 13:41:02 Slp: Configuration action failed for feature SQL_Engine_Core_Inst during timing ConfigNonRC and scenario ConfigNonRC.

 

Much investigation on the internet turned up a lot of people that have been having this issue, but very few answers.  After many installs and uninstalls, I finally tried the following, which seemed to work:

 

  • I ran the setup.exe as an administrator (right click on setup.exe and click “Run as administrator) even though I am a local administrator on the box.
  • I installed SQL Server using the Network Service account instead of the normal domain service account.
  • The installation succeeded and I just went into Configuration Manager and changed the service account to the domain account after the installation.

Unlike the similar Reese’s dilemmas, these results were far less favorable…

Reese's are yummy

Reese's are yummy

 

As many of these issues begin, a developer put together a procedure.  When he ran it locally, it ran in a matter of seconds.  For some reason, though, he wanted the procedure run from a remote server.  When he attempted to run that same procedure from the remote server, it took a number of minutes.    It was apparent that it wasn’t the result set being returned, as there were OLEDB waits while the query was processing.

 

In looking at the query, it wasn’t anything spectacular.  It dumped some data into a temp table and then joined that table to an existing table and displayed the result.    The problem ended up being the temp tables.  While the query was being executed against the remote server, the temp tables were being created on the server the query was running on.  So, pulling the data into the temp table and joining the two tables all had to occur with data being pulled across the network.

 

The fix was pretty simple – change the procedure to create a table on the remote server and drop it once the procedure was finished.  The procedure ran in the expected time period.

 | Posted by tledwards | Categories: SQLServerPedia, T-SQL | Tagged: , |

The SQL Server community never ceases to amaze me.  The number of people that are willing to take time out from their jobs and families to volunteer is especially impressive.

 

I’ve had the good  fortune to be able to volunteer for the Program Committe this year.  My job is to pull together special projects and whatever other slave work Allen thinks up for me.   I’ve had a number of volunteers that have put great work into our current project.  This project has multiple steps and has required a ton of coordination between the volunteers – but it is all coming together.   It’s something that’s been needed for awhile  and now it’s going to be a reality.   I’d name names, but I know that I’d forget someone.   So thank you to everyone that’s helped out.

 

A big (virtual) cake for all of you!

A big (virtual) cake for all of you!

It’s not just me, though.  Tim’s in the process of re-starting the Performance VC.  He had mentioned the need for volunteers through our blog, Twitter and Blythe Morrow(Blog/Twitter) put out a call for volunteers on the PASS blog.  He’s been overwhelmed at the number of people that have asked to help out.

 

For all of you that volunteer for PASS – kudos to you!  For those of you that are thinking of volunteering, but haven’t yet,  get ahold of Tim or me or go here for additional volunteer opportunities.