Free Microsoft E-Books!

Yes,  you read that right, free! Microsoft has lost their minds and is now giving away a rather large collection of e-books, yours for the taking.

They cover quite a range of subjects too, including ASP.Net, Office, SharePoint, SQL Server, Visual Studio, Windows, Azure, Phone 7, and Server. As you would expect they come in PDF format, but it gets better! They  also have them in MOBI and EPUB formats, so if you have a device that supports them you get a full featured experience. (I know Kindle uses the MOBI format and Apple’s iBook EPUB, not sure what other readers use).

You can get these goodies from:

http://social.technet.microsoft.com/wiki/contents/articles/11608.e-book-gallery-for-microsoft-technologies.aspx

Looks like I have many more late nights of reading ahead of me. Oh well, I guess three hours of sleep a night ought to be fine for anyone. 

Life Balance

In my post a few days ago, one of my resolutions for 2011 is a better work – life balance. I am working on ways to still produce as much as ever but still give more time to my family. I’ve got a few ideas that I wanted to share, and am hopeful you’ll leave comments with your ideas.

Lunch time – I’m lucky enough to work from home quite a bit. On those days I make it a point to emerge from my home office which is down in our basement and eat lunch with my family. True, it’s a brief time, 20 to 30 minutes, but we still get to enjoy each others company. When I’m in the office for several days in a row, they come in to meet me at least once a week where we eat out together.

Date time – I have two daughters, so every couple of weeks my wife and I have “dates” with them. We let the girls plan what they want to do, and each of us takes a kid and goes on a “date”. That gives each of us one on one time with a kid, as well as giving the kids time apart from each other. My oldest daughter and I usually go to the local Doctor Who fan club meetings (she’s a huge Doctor Who fanatic, has her own sonic screwdriver and life size TARDIS). The other daughter loves ice skating and playing video games with me.

Remote working – Living room to dungeon. At the start of the year my wife and I redid our living room. We tossed our old sofa and each got a new recliner and end tables. I took an old laptop and ran the power cord through the drawer and out the back. Now I can sit in my comfy chair, pull out my laptop and remote control my two computers down in the dungeon (aka my home office). When I’m done, I simply close the lid, slide it back in the drawer and close it. It’s hidden out of sight, nice and neat. But now I can easily sit with the family and work on things that don’t require a lot of brain power, setting up virtual machines for example.

The “TO DO” list – Like many people I have a “to do” list apart from my work related tasks, stuff that needs doing around the house, car maintenance, yard work, etc. I’m trying to make a point to accomplish at least one thing on our to do list each week.

Portable Learning – Between my Kindle and Zune it’s now very easy to take my content consumption on the road. While I wait for the family to shop in some ladies clothing store, for example, I can sit and read or catch up on podcasts.

There’s a few ideas, hope they help you too, and please leave comments with your ideas!

T-SQL Tuesdays–Resolutions

There’s a new meme going around the SQL Server blogosphere called T-SQL Tuesdays. A bunch of SQL Bloggers all post about the same SQL related topic on the same day. Back at the beginning of January fellow MVP Jen McGown (blog | twitter) wrote a blog post about resolutions for the new year. Granted I’m way too late to be included in that round of SQL Server related Tuesdays, but thought it was a great idea and wanted to put up my resolutions. Since it’s February it’s a little late for new years, maybe we can call them Ground Hogs’ day resolutions?

Produce more variety – I’ve been doing a lot of content for Pluralsight, I want to continue putting out good content for them, but want to put out other content as well. I want to try and blog more, and hope to self publish a few books on the Kindle platform.

Consume more – As much as I love to produce content, I recognize that I need to do a better job of consuming more. My Kindle has been a big help with that, having a huge library available all the time has made it easy to switch between the subjects I want or need to learn about.

Balance my consumption – While I love technical books, I realize to be a true professional I need a good balance. I’ve started reading a lot of what I call “professional” books. Books that give me insights into things like business, community, time management, and teamwork.

Better balance of family life – Let’s face it, us really aggressive type A folks work a lot. When we’re not doing our 9 to 5 job we’re producing content like blog posts, books, videos, or are off at some user group meeting or weekend event presenting. This has a definite impact on the family. While my family is incredibly understanding, we still miss each other. So I’m working on some creative solutions to this issue.

Get my next certification – Last year I earned my MCTS for SQL Server 2008 Business Intelligence. This year my goal is to advance that and earn my MCITP also in SQL Server BI.

More Beta work – The CTP for the next version of SQL Server is now out. I want to spend more time working with it so when the final version is ready I’ll be well up to speed, plus better able to share the new features with the community.

I suppose this list is identical to the list of many people. but if I put it in writing I’ll be able to both measure it and hold myself accountable.

SSIS For Developers at DevLink 2010

I have the honor of presenting at DevLink 2010 today. DevLink is a great conference in Nashville, TN, this year attendance topped 800 people. In my session,  SSIS For Developers, we’ll look at how SSIS, commonly used in Data Warehousing, can also be used by most developers to solve issues that frequently come up in the course of their job. Data conversion and exporting data are two good examples, and we’ll also look at how to call your new SSIS job from your .Net application.

There are two code demos used during the presentation, both available at my Code Gallery site. The first is the basic SSIS For Devs demo with the three packages. The second is the more complex example showing how to call SSIS from your .Net application.

What I learned at CodeStock 2010

June 25/26 brought the annual CodeStock event. A big congrats to Michael Neel, the East Tennessee .Net Users Group and the volunteers for their hard work and dedication. As you will note from the previous post I had the honor of being chosen to present two sessions. I appreciate everyone who showed up and participated, lots of great questions and interaction. The new venue at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville really worked out well. The hotels were across the street, and there were plenty of places to eat within short walking distance. The conference center easily held the over 450 attendees, it never felt cramped our crowded.

Thanks also to the many great sponsors for their support. RecruitWise, for their taking the main sponsorship should get a special shout out. I also got to spend some time with the great folks from both TechSmith and DevExpress, it’s great to get to know the people who make the tools you use to get your job done. I had the best seat at dinner one night, sitting right between @BetsyWeber (TechSmith) and @RachelHawley (DevExpress).

I spent quite a bit of time in Open Spaces and “The Lounge” as we began to call it, the area in the lobby with comfy chairs where we gathered in informal discussion. Lots of great topics, including global teams, professionalism, going independent, and much more. I also participated in a open spaces session where Hal Rottenberg did a group discussion and recorded it for his PowerScripting podcast. (Great podcast for learning more about PowerShell, I’ve been listening for quite a while.)

I attended a few sessions when I wasn’t participating in Open Spaces or presenting myself. Jennifer Marsman’s session on VS2010 Tools for Architecture, Modeling and Visualization was quite interesting. I also got a lot of really good ideas from Tim Corbett’s session on the structure of the RDL/RDLC file.

My favorite session though had to be Steve Andrews’ session on T4. If you’ve never heard of T4, it is a code generation language built right into Visual Studio 2008/2010, and available as a download for 2005. It’s easy to use yet also very powerful. There’s also some T4 libraries you can download that will make using T4 easy to use. I can’t wait to begin using this for some of my SQL Server database projects I do with Visual Studio Database Developer (Data Dude). Check out Steve’s blog for more info on T4.

Of course my favorite part had to be “PostStock”, the party hosted by @AlanStevens and his lovely wife. It was quite nice, for the bulk of the evening we sat on his front porch having great conversations. Naturally technology was a frequent topic, but we also touched on other topics such as the importance of family and the epicurean delights from fine food, wine and cigars. Somewhere after midnight we relocated to the Stevens backyard and gathered around the fire pit. (Not too closely, it was pretty hot.) Alan and Steve Andrews broke out their guitars and serenaded us with song after song. The highlight was when they did a rousing rendition of “Code Monkey”.

CodeStock is an awesome event, I’ve been the last few years and will continue to attend. See you at CodeStock 2011!

CodeStock 2010

It’s June, must be time for CodeStock! For those who don’t know, CodeStock is a conference but on annually by the East Tennessee .Net Users Group. This year I am fortunate to have been selected for two presentations.

The first is The Decoder Ring for Data Warehousing / Business Intelligence. This is a concepts talk in which you’ll learn about the terms and overall design of a Data Warehouse, and what they mean when they say Business Intelligence. While we’ll mention the products SQL Server offers, unfortunately we won’t have time for much in the way of a demo.

My second session of the day is a nice follow on to the above session, but will also work even should you not have been in the first session. In SSIS For Developers, we’ll look at how SSIS, commonly used in Data Warehousing, can also be used by most developers to solve issues that frequently come up in the course of their job. Data conversion and exporting data are two good examples, and we’ll also look at how to call your new SSIS job from your .Net application.

There are two code demos used during the presentation, both available at my Code Gallery site. The first is the basic SSIS For Devs demo with the three packages. The second is the more complex example showing how to call SSIS from your .Net application.

Live Streaming from SQL Saturday 41

One of the sponsors for tomorrow’s SQL Saturday in Atlanta Georgia, a company named Set Focus, is going to be live streaming three presentations from the event. I just got the word that my session, "Introduction to Data Warehousing/Business Intelligence" was selected as one of the sessions. My session kicks off the event at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time. Information and a link to the stream site can be found on Set Focus’s blog:

http://blogs.setfocus.com/radar/2010/04/22/streaming-sqlsaturday/

SQL Saturday 41 was sold out some time ago, and there is even quite a waiting list, so if you’re unable to attend then at least you can sit in on three of the sessions via the live stream. The other two sessions to be streamed are "SQL Server Memory Deep Dive" by Kevin Boles and "Database Design Patterns" by Louis Davidson. Both are fellow Microsoft MVPs and excellent presenters, I know you’ll enjoy their presentations as well.

Live streaming technology really excites me. While I feel that you can get the best experience and education from being live at the event, I also understand that this is not always possible for everyone. Work conflicts, distance, family obligations, or the event simply being sold out, as this one is, can limit a person’s ability to attend in person. Live streaming events such as SQL Saturday really helps us to extend our reach into the community and to help serve those who for whatever reason cannot be with us at the event. I want to give a great big thanks to the folks over at Set Focus for making this happen.

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