Atlanta Code Camp

The fine folks over in Atlanta have just announced their code camp will take place on March 29th, 2008. I’ll be submitting several sessions, and look forward to a good time. Last year was a lot of fun.

To sign up head to http://www.atlantacodecamp.com/ and I’ll see you there in a month!

The Best Intentions

Well, I set out tonight to do some more studying of PowerShell, my new love in life. Then I intended to create a blog entry, but a Twitter post reminded me of something I’d seen on the Hanselman Forums, and next thing I know I’d sucked up my alloted time over there.

So if you want to see what I’ve been up to tonight, check out the Hanselman Forums at
http://www.hanselman.com/forum/default.aspx

Most of what I posted was in these threads: Productivity Tools, Hanselminute Shows, Off Topic and Philosophy of Software.

I can’t leave without passing along at least one PowerShell related tip: I’ve been listening to the PowerScripting Podcast all week. They’ve had 19 shows so far, I started at 0 and am up to number 8. Very good stuff, lots of links to PowerShell tools and tips. One reason it’s taking me so long is I keep stopping to make notes or check out some link they give.

Avoiding Burnout OR How I learned to stop worrying and love the PowerShell

Most geeks I know tend to be workaholics. We go and go and go on a subject, spending long hours in front of our PC’s until we’ve conquered whatever we’ve been working on. It’s important though to avoid getting burned out. When we’ve exceeded our capacities, we’re depressed, dread looking at things, our productivity goes to near zero and stress wreaks havoc on our health.

For the last two months I’ve been hammering away at SQL Server, getting ready for my presentations at the recent code camp. While I’m not quite at the burn out stage, I recognize it’s just around the corner and decided I needed a break. At the same time I came away from code camp energized and wanting to learn something “techy”. The answer then was obvious, to find some technology that was new to me, and that I could use in conjunction with my SQL Server work, but was not directly SQL Server.

I twittered about going to the bookstore on Sunday, what I was actually looking for was a book on F#. (Yes, I’m an old fogey and still like books as a good platform for learning.) F# seems to fit well with processing sets of data. Sadly the stores lacked any tomes on the subject.

powershellstepbystep I did find, however, a book called “Windows PowerShell Step By Step”. This looked like a great fit for my needs. It’s small, around 220 pages so it’s something I can easily read in a short amount of time. It’s on a subject I was interested in, PowerShell. I believe PowerShell will soon become an integral part of all Server based technologies, and we’ll be able to perform remarkable amounts of maintenance and more with PowerShell.

Over the next few days I’ll give some more resources for PowerShell that I’ve already found, but I can tell you I love PowerShell already. My post for today is not so much about PowerShell but about burnout. When you’ve spent a lot of time hammering away, don’t forget to come up for air every so often. Look around, see what other tools are available for you to learn. You’ll find yourself refreshed, and have new skills to boot!

I’m all a Twitter

I love code camps. They are nerd nirvana combined with the glorification of geekdom in one fabulous fun filled day. I always come away energized and ready to dive into the tech world. The recent Alabama Code Camp in Huntsville was no exception. Big public congrats to the Huntsville User Group for putting on a great camp!

My favorite part of code camp is the speakers dinner, traditionally held the night before. It’s a chance for the organizers to go over any last minute details with the folks who will be speaking the next day, and a chance for us to catch up or meet new people and generally geek out. After the speaker dinner a group of us went over to… well let’s just say the place is known as being “delightfully tacky yet unrefined”. We wanted to grab a few adult beverages and continue some of the discussion.

You know, I never thought that particular chain of all places would be “closed down” by a bunch of geeks, but sure enough by 1:30 am the girls in the orange shorts and white tank tops were gently pushing us toward the exit. At some point, I think it was around 12:45, I sort of realized we were the only group left in the place but there was a rather spirited debate going about SOAP vs REST as well as some discussion of LINQ so I wasn’t paying too close attention to the surroundings.

It was an interesting crowd, Doug Turnure (who to his credit had enough brains to leave about 11 and get some sleep), Jim Wooley, Michael Neal, Alan Stevens, Keith Elder and myself. Keith and Alan were giving Doug and I grief about not being on Twitter. I had taken a look at it some point back and guess I didn’t invest enough time with it to see the benefit. That night I believe it was Keith who described it as “being in the speaker’s lounge, all the time”. After that and a bit more verbal “nudging” Doug and I both dusted off our accounts. I spent a few minutes when I got back to the hotel actually reading the on-line instructions (what a concept, reading the fine manual) on how to use Twitter. Now after following it for a day or so I’m getting an inkling of how this could be useful. I’m going to give it a shot during the week and see what happens.

As you can see, I’ve added my Twitter feed to the blog (see to the left), or you can go to my Twitter page and see the same conversational threads I’m following. I promise to keep my Tweets technical in nature (for the most part). I’ve always worked to make sure I add value when I do something, whether it’s a blog post, comment to someone else’s post, or another form of social web interaction. (I wonder how many billions of bits of storage are being sucked up by “Me too” posts?)

If you don’t know anything about Twitter, head over to http://twitter.com and take a look. Be sure to read the FAQ so you get an idea of how to use it, then jump on in. I’ll pretty much follow anyone who is following me, so feel free to add me or leave a comment below with your twitter info.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to Twitter the fact I just updated my blog!

SQL Server 2005 Full Text Searching at the Huntsville Alabama Code Camp

My third and final presentation for the Alabama Code Camp 6 is “Introduction to SQL Server Full Text Searching”. Here are the materials I’ll be using during the demo.

First, here is a PDF of the PowerPoint slides:

Full Text Search Power Points

Next, most of the demos used SQL statements. This PDF file has all of the SQL plus some associated notes.

Full Text Search Demo Scripts

Finally, I did a WPF project that demonstrated how to call a full text search query from a WPF Windows application. Annoyingly enough WordPress (who hosts my blog) won’t let me upload ZIP files, so I renamed the extension to pdf. After you download the file to your drive, remove the .pdf and put the zip extension back on, then it should expand all the source for you correctly. (Yes, I know, I really need to get a host server for binaries, one of these days I’ll get around to it, but for today…)

Source for WPF Demo

Introduction to SQL Server Integration Services – Huntsville Alabama Code Camp

My second post of the day at Alabama Code Camp 6 in Huntsville is “Introduction to SQL Server Integration Services”.

The slide deck is here: Intro to SSIS Slide Deck

The “cheat sheet” or script I used to do the demo is here: Script for doing the SSIS Demo You can step through it to recreate all of the things I did in the demo today.

Finally here is the finished project. It’s actually zipped, but my current host doesn’t like zip extensions so when you download it change the extension from txt back to ZIP. Finished SSIS Project

The Developer Experience

In case you’re wondering why the slowdown in the blog this week, I’ve been spending all my free time getting ready for Alabama Code Camp 6. My first presentation of the day is “The Developer Experience”. It’s chock full of practical, low cost (or even free!) ways to make your life as a programmer more productive.

As promised in the session, here’s the complete PDF of my slides:  The Developer Experience

Steel City SQL Server Users Group – SQL Server 2005 Full Text Searching

Tonight I’ll be presenting at the Steel City SQL Users Group “Introduction to SQL Server Full Text Searching”. Here are the materials I’ll be using during the demo.

First, here is a PDF of the PowerPoint slides:

Full Text Search Power Points

Next, most of the demos used SQL statements. This PDF file has all of the SQL plus some associated notes.

Full Text Search Demo Scripts

Finally, I did a WPF project that demonstrated how to call a full text search query from a WPF Windows application. Annoyingly enough WordPress (who hosts my blog) won’t let me upload ZIP files, so I renamed the extension to pdf. After you download the file to your drive, remove the .pdf and put the zip extension back on, then it should expand all the source for you correctly. (Yes, I know, I really need to get a host server for binaries, one of these days I’ll get around to it, but for today…)

Source for WPF Demo

Look forward to seeing you at the New Horizons Training center tonight, 6:00 PM!

Don’t Uninstall Visual Studio 2005 Yet!

One of the great benefits of Visual Studio 2008 is the ability for it to target multiple .Net Frameworks. This means, in theory you could go ahead and begin using Visual Studio 2008 even though you still need to write apps that are 2005 / .Net 2.0 compliant. You might be tempted to go ahead and uninstall 2005. And that would be fine if you are only doing .Net development. But wait…

If you are still doing SQL Server BIDS (Business Intelligence Developer Studio) then don’t uninstall Visual Studio 2005! Currently there’s no support in VS2008 for doing SQL Server 2005 BIDS Development. If you uninstall VS2005 you won’t be able to do any more BIDS work. Trust me, I found out the hard way.

After uninstalling VS2005, I went to do a BIDS project and that’s when I got hit with the nasty surprise. The uninstall had also removed the Dev Environment that was shared with BIDS. I tried to rerun the install of my SQL Server Developer Edition, but for some reason it thought I wanted to upgrade. It kept giving me the message “You cannot upgrade a version of SQL Server from the GUI, you must use the command line.”

I finally had to reinstall VS2005, along with all it’s service packs. After that I was able to work on my BIDS projects again. So take it from me, if you are still doing SQL Server 2005 Business Intelligence projects, Visual Studio 2005 still has some life in it yet.

Huntsville User Group – SQL Server 2005 Full Text Searching

Tonight I’ll be presenting at the Huntsville Users Group “Introduction to SQL Server Full Text Searching”. Here are the materials I’ll be using during the demo.

First, here is a PDF of the PowerPoint slides:

Full Text Search Power Points

Next, most of the demos used SQL statements. This PDF file has all of the SQL plus some associated notes.

Full Text Search Demo Scripts

Finally, I did a WPF project that demonstrated how to call a full text search query from a WPF Windows application. Annoyingly enough WordPress (who hosts my blog) won’t let me upload ZIP files, so I renamed the extension to pdf. After you download the file to your drive, remove the .pdf and put the zip extension back on, then it should expand all the source for you correctly. (Yes, I know, I really need to get a host server for binaries, one of these days I’ll get around to it, but for today…)

Source for WPF Demo

Look forward to seeing you in Huntsville tonight!

Do It Yourself Quick Launch Menu

One of my upcoming presentations at Alabama Code Camp 6 will be “The Developer Experience”. I intend to cover three aspects of the developer experience: physical, virtual, and mental. Falling into the virtual category are things like Windows and Visual Studio Add-Ins. Launcher programs seem very popular these days, and I’ll be covering a few of them in my presentation, but did you know it’s very easy to create your own “quick launch” menu right on the Windows Start Bar? (I’ve also heard it referred to as the Task Bar.)

Start by going to your “My Documents” or some other location on your drive. Create a new folder, and give it a name. I chose something short, “Dev”, since it’ll take up some space on the Start Bar and it was pretty descriptive. Now in this folder you should create short cuts to all the applications you use on a frequent basis. You can also create other folders, which will turn into submenus when we’re done. Here you can see I’ve got my shortcuts, plus one folder called “Directories” which holds shortcuts to folders I access frequently. Here’s a ‘best practice’ for you: I also find it a good idea to create a shortcut to the Dev folder itself, so you can quickly and easily add or remove shortcuts to your system.

diymenu01

Once you have all of your shortcuts, right click on your start bar and pick Toolbars, New Toolbar (I’m doing this in Vista by the way, but it works equally well in XP as I’ve done it there for years).

diymenu02

When the New Toolbar dialog appears, navigate to the place where you stored your “Dev” folder, click on it and click “Select Folder”.

diymenu03

Now you should see a new item appear on your Start Bar with the word “Dev” (or whatever you named your menu). Here you can see my menu; I’ve highlighted the “Directories” submenu so you can see it working as well.

diymenu04

If the menu doesn’t appear where you want it simply click on the little bar to the left of the name of the menu and drag it where you want. Your menu may also appear but “spread out”. If so, simply place the cursor over the bar, and drag it back into a collapsed position as I demonstrate below.

diymenu05

You can create as many of these little do it yourself quick launchers as you want. I usually have my Dev menu all the time, which holds my generic shortcuts or shortcuts to general items such as my RSS reader, Visual Studio, or Paint.Net. When I’m working on a big project, I like to create shortcuts specific to that project. Thus I’ll create another one for that specific project that will open the folders where my source code or data is stored, has links to open the project right in Visual Studio, and more. They are easy enough to take off the Start Bar, simply right click on the menu again, go back to Toolbars, and click on the menu name. It will remove itself from the Start Bar, but the folder will remain intact for when “phase 2” of your project comes around.

Using my “Do it yourself quick launch menu” I almost never need to go through the Start Menu. In addition it allows me to keep my Quick Launch toolbar extremely small, I only have icons there to apps I really do use many times a day. And the best part is it’s all built into your copy of Windows already. Nothing to download, install, no additional overhead, totally safe and secure. This is a real benefit when you work in an environment where you are not allowed to install any third party applications. Give it a try and see if you don’t find it a better way to work.

Arcane Hardware Hint

Not too long ago I picked up a Targus ACP50US Universal Docking Port. This nifty contraption makes it easy for me to connect all my gizmos to my laptop when I get home every day. All I have to do is plug in one USB connection and I’ve got my network, speakers, microphone, and through the USB ports my external hard disk, mouse, keyboard, external DVD drive, PDA docking station, and more. What’s really handy is the video port. Using it, as well as the video port already built into the laptop gives me the ability to have three monitors hooked up. (The internal laptop, the laptops external monitor, and the monitor hooked up to the Targus).

I’ve discovered a really interesting quirk regarding the video port in the Targus. It advertises a maximum resolution of 1024×768. Not great considering the resolution of most modern monitors, but I thought it would be useful enough for my e-mail program. I will add the refresh rate is really really jerky. I have to move my mouse slow. Still, for information that is fairly static such as a reference manual or e-mail it is OK.

Not too long ago though I found something odd. I had booted my laptop but neglected to plug in the Targus. So I plugged it in, and was amazed when the Targus’ video came up to a full 1600×1200 resolution! Maybe it’s just some odd quirk in my system, or perhaps the driver in Vista is over-riding the Targus driver. For the record, I have an HP Pavilion dv8000 (the 8195 if I recall the model correctly) laptop running Vista. The external monitor hooked to the Targus is a 20 inch ViewSonic G800. (The other monitor, the one hooked directly to the laptop is also a ViewSonic, a 21 inch G220f.)

Now when I boot my laptop, I wait until I’ve logged into Vista before plugging in the Targus docking port. The video displays flicker then I get my third monitor with 1600×1200 resolution. The refresh rate still stinks, but it’s no worse than it was at 1024×768 but I get a nice big screen. As I said it’s just fine for fairly static info such as electronic books (pdfs or chms), web pages, word documents, database diagrams or other types of data that I’m only reading, not trying to work with intensively.

If you happen to own one of these docking stations, I’m curious to see if anyone else experiences this phenomenon. Next time you power up, wait until after you’ve logged in to see if you get bigger video out of it, then leave a comment here for us all to know!

I’m Honored

Tonight I was given an honor. My fellow developers elected me President of the Birmingham Software Developer’s Association. I’m grateful for the confidence they placed in me, and will work hard not to disappoint. I have some big shoes to fill, my predecessor Wallace did a tremendous job for the last five years. A big public thanks to Wallace for his dedication to the BSDA.

Everyone has a vision of what they’d like to see done when they are elected to office, and I’m no different. Specifically, I’d like to double the regular attendance at club meetings. Further, I’d like to do at least one boot camp, and one .Net University session this year. With the release of Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 this year and the recent release of Visual Studio 2008 I’d like to see a lot of great presentations around these new technologies.

Finally, let me make it clear this is YOUR club. I’m just the guy who gets up and welcomes everyone. It’s the members who make the club work, and who I want to serve. If you have ideas for meetings, activities, special events, whatever I’m open and willing so let’s hear them.

Again, let me say thanks to everyone who attended tonight. I look forward to working with my fellow officers and club members to do some exciting things. I deeply appreciate the honor, and will work hard to make sure it’s deserved.

Allowing SQL Server 2005 Developer Edition to Receive Remote Connections

I was working with another developer on a SQL Server project, and we decided to copy his database changes to my box. The simplest thing would be to just connect to my instance of SQL Server 2005 Developer Edition from his, and then apply the changes. When we tried though we kept getting the error:

“An error has occurred while establishing a connection to the server. When connecting to SQL Server 2005, this failure may be caused by the fact that under the default settings SQL Server does not allow remote connections. “

Huh? I’m scratching my head thinking the developer edition is supposed to be the same as the enterprise edition, and what good is a SQL Server that won’t allow connections? So I do a little digging and found a great knowledge base article 914277. According to it the Express and Developer editions are configured to NOT allow remote connections. When you think about it, there is some logic behind it. The Express edition is designed for light weight applications used locally and the Developer Edition is designed for a single developer to create test and prototype databases and then connect to the main development servers that will be used.

There are times though when it makes sense to turn on the ability to remote connect. Collaboration is one of the main reasons I can point out, as was the case with my co-worker and I. Another is testing, you may want to install and test your new application in a clean virtual PC and let it connect to your developer instance of SQL Server 2005.

The instructions from the knowledge base article are very well laid out and simple, so I won’t bother to reiterate them here. I did want to get the word out however so others could find this as well. We didn’t find it necessary to have to complete the firewall pieces of the instructions, only the first two parts. However we are behind a pretty heavy duty firewall at work, so your environment may be different.

Alabama Code Camp

The sixth Alabama Code Camp is coming up February 23rd, 2008. Registration is now open, as is the call for speakers. Many, including myself have submitted, you can see them by going to the Alabama Code Camp site and clicking on the speakers link. The list of speakers is very impressive, no less than eight MVPs, and at least two authors. I’m humbled to be amongst such distinguished company!

Here’s the synopsis for my two sessions, in case you are curious:

Introduction to SQL Server Integration Services

Whether you are creating a full blown data warehouse, doing a data conversion from an old system to a new one, or integrating applications together SQL Server Integration Services can help. Get an overview of this powerful tool built into SQL Server.

The Developer Experience

Learn about tips and tricks to enhance your experience as a developer both in the physical world and the virtual world. See hardware that can make your life easier, software additions for Windows and Visual Studio, even how just a few tweaks in the Visual Studio options can make your experience as a developer more pleasant and productive.

This is shaping up to be an impressive code camp, so don’t hesitate and get registered today!

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