Deep Fried Arcane

At TechEd last year I was interviewed by the Deep Fried Bytes guys, along with another great SQL guy Denny Cherry. The topic of our interview was What Should Developers Know About SQL Server. (Click the link for the show.)

In the interview we cover SQL Server Full Text Search, SQL Server Service Broker, and SQL Server Integration Services. And if you listen, you’ll hear about my favorite deep fried food!

The Podcast Junkie Returns for 2010

Last year I did a week long series called “The Podcast Junkie”. (The link is for the first day, but be sure to check out each day of the week for a list of casts.) I’m still a Podcast Junkie, and if anything listen or watch more now than I did last year. Having the ability to hook up my Zune to my TV (either through my XBOX 360 or in the Zune docking cradle) makes it very convenient. In the evenings I often drop my Zune into the dock and kick back with some podcasts.

Right now I’m in the process of reformatting my main laptop and reinstalling everything. I’ve spent a lot of time working with Beta then Release Candidate software over the last year and all the install / uninstalls have likely contributed to the instability of my machine. Not an unusual thing for developers to go through.

I keep all of my data, with two exceptions, on drives other than C so I have almost no data to back up, thus the process goes very quickly. One is my Microsoft Outlook files, easy enough to backup and restore later. The other is my Zune media.

My music, videos and audio books are all on external USB drives, so when I reinstall the the Zune software all I have to do is point it at the drives then kick back and wait for it to index all of it. My playlists are stored in C:\Users\[your username here]\My Music\Zune\Playlists, so I just copied those to a backup device and will restore after the Zune software is reinstalled.

The podcasts though are a bit more painful. Yes I could back them all up, but I’ve found just as with a reformat of the PC, so too does a reset of your podcast list benefit you. In the process of resubscribing to my podcasts I wind up weeding out a few I haven’t listened to in a while. More importantly I also wind up finding new ones to subscribe to, which is the fun part. It’s rare I have time to just sit and look through all the newly added podcasts, so this is a good opportunity to find new material to enjoy and learn from.

So then I get to the question of how best to backup my list. Last time I just went to the Zune Podcast folder and grabbed the list of directory names which match the podcasts I listen to. This time I decided to be a bit more creative, and did screen captures of the list and then merged them into one picture. The result turned out pretty cool, so I thought I’d share it with all of you. Just click on it to see the full size picture to see the podcasts I’m currently addicted to.

PodcastJunkie

I don’t try and add all of them at once after I reinstall. Instead I start with the ones that are most important to me and add them first. I’ll let those download and sync with my Zune so I can be enjoying them while downloading the rest. To keep up with which ones I’ve gotten so far, I’ll make a copy of this picture to act as a check list. As I add each one to my collection, I’ll simply go to my picture editor (I like Paint.Net), use the selection tool to select the podcast and it’s name, then just hit delete. Eventually I should wind up with a blank picture.

One last piece of advice, after you have reset your library on your newly formatted computer, you need to also wipe your current content from your Zune. Your Zune anchors it’s data to the PC it came from, so it thinks your reformatted computer is a “new” PC and will lock away your old content to protect it. You wind up with a big portion of your Zune’s storage space being taken up by media you can’t get to.

To reset your Zune content, hook your Zune up to the computer, then in the software go to Settings (in the upper right). In Settings, click on Device. The top left menu item, Sync Options should be what you are on. At the very bottom you’ll see “Erase All Content”, you want to do this prior to syncing up any music or podcasts. Warning!!!! Make sure you have all the content on your Zune backed up that you need backed up. As I mentioned earlier, all my music and video on external drives, and my podcasts I’ve just redownloaded, so I don’t have anything on my Zune that I’ll lose, but your situation may be different.

Also note that when you do this, it will also delete the games, if you have the games installed. To reinstall the games, while still in the Settings, Device menu go down to Player Update. After making sure your player is up to date, you should see a button that reads “Install Games”. I’m sure by now you’ve deduced that just clicking it will reinstall the games. Not having the games gives you extra space for music, etc. If you have a bigger Zune like the 80 or 120 you probably won’t notice the missing space, if however you have a 4 gig model you might want to think about it.

Hope this helps the next time you have to reformat your computer, or just want to take a look at the podcasts someone else might be listening to. Personally I’m glad there’s no 12 step program for podcast addicts, would hate for someone to try and drag me to the meeting. (I’d probably be sitting in the back listening to my Zune instead of the meeting.)

“Hi, my name is Arcane Code, and I’m a podcast junkie!”

Podcast Junkie Week – THE Show

“So what is the one show I should listen to?”

“What show is the most important?”

“What is your favorite show?”

All great questions, and today I’ll answer all of the questions with one name:

Security Now

Yes, a podcast about security. I’m sure you are probably thinking “dull dull dull”. But my friend you’d be so mistaken.

First off, security is everyone’s business. Attacks come in all forms, and any good developer, DBA, or admin needs to know what forms they take and how best to protect yourself from them. Even if you are just a computer user, you need to know the basics of how to protect your system.

I also find the hosts very entertaining. Leo Laporte plays the role of the “every man”, asking the same questions you or I would. Steve Gibson is the security sage, the dispenser of internet safety and wisdom. I personally find his voice and style to be very relaxing, sometimes I feel like I’m right there in the coffee shop with him having a discussion.

Steve also has the ability to make complex subjects understandable. He draws on analogies to clarify the deep technical jargon and make it clear. I also appreciate the weekly security updates segment. Not only does Steve let you know about the latest security alerts, but tells us what they mean to us and how we can protect ourselves.

Finally I want to point out the incredible dedication Steve has. As of July 9th 2009 Security Now has been on the web for 204 weeks, and has published 204 episodes. In that time he has not missed one single week putting out an episode. I know that even during the December holiday season when so many other podcasts go into hiatus, each week an episode of Security Now will continue to appear on my Zune.

I hope you’ve enjoyed getting a glimpse into the life of a podcast junkie. If you want to help my addiction feel free to post your own suggestions in the comments for the day most appropriate to the subject. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go watch another podcast.

Podcast Junkie Week – Guilty Pleasures

Most of the podcasts I watch / listen to are related to my work in the computer field. But we all have to have some fun in life, and there are some podcasts I listen to or watch just for that reason, pure fun. Here’s some that will keep you entertained in various ways. Note there are a few that use language considered “not safe for work” (nothing too vulgar but perhaps a bit beyond what some would consider polite conversation). I’ve marked those with “explicit” at the end.

Car Talk – I’ve been a fan of Click and Clack long before the MP3 was invented. They brought their show to the web as a weekly podcast. I find it to be a great parenting tool too. When the kids begin misbehaving during a long road trip, all I have to do is wave my Zune around and threaten to play Car Talk and boy they straighten right up.

Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me – This show takes a humorous look at the week’s news. It blends interviews and a game show like format with regular panelists to provide an enjoyable way to look at the gloom that is normally the headlines.

DiggNation – Don’t ask me why two guys sitting on a couch drinking beer (or hot tea) and talking about the weeks most dugg stories is so fascinating, but it is. I typically set aside Friday evening as podcast night, watch Cranky Geeks, Tekzilla and wrap it up with Diggnation. (explicit)

Carpool – I just discovered this show, and have been quite enjoying it. Robert Llewllyn, better known as Kryten from Red Dwarf, had an innovative idea for a podcast. He picks well known people up and gives them a ride to work. Along the way he interviews them and records it all on multiple cameras. I know it sounds a bit odd, but take a look. I’m surprised myself at how thoroughly I have been enjoying this little show. (some episodes can rate the explicit tag, depends on who he is interviewing. The Stephen Fry episode is quite safe and is probably my favorite so far).

Car Tech – If you love cars, you’ll love Car Tech. See cars through the eyes of a geek.

No Agenda – If you enjoy conspiracy theory, or are amused by it, this is the show for you. Twice a week John Dvorak and Adam Curry will discuss the news in ways you probably haven’t thought of. At the very least it will make you think. (explicit)

Sherlock Holmes Adventures – Old time radio comes alive again as the old time radio shows are reborn as MP3s. These are a great way to relive “the old days”.

This week we’ve looked at a lot of podcasts, but I’m asked “what is the one podcast I should be listening to”. Believe it or not I have an answer for that. And I’ll tell you what it is. Tomorrow.

Podcast Junkie Week – The Computer Industry

As a developer I think it’s important to keep up with general trends in the computer industry. They have a direct reflection on what we do. I’ve found a nice selection that are not only informative but also entertaining. I think you’ll enjoy them too.

Buzz Out Loud – I start each day off with this daily CNet podcast. A panel of experts discusses the latest industry happenings in a very entertaining manner. It’s available in both audio and video formats.

PCMag Radio – Each week the editors at PCMag (formerly PC Magazine) get together and cover the weeks hottest topics.

Windows Weekly – Paul Thurrott and Leo Laporte cover the latest in all things Microsoft in this entertaining and informative podcast.

Tech5 – John C. Dvorak has been around as long as the PC, each day he delivers his wisdom in 5 minute chunks. John also does a weekly video round up of the news called Top 5 Tech 5.

Cranky Geeks – John Dvorak has another show well worth watching in Cranky Geeks. This weekly half hour show gets John and co-crank Sebastian Rupley together with two industry pundits to discuss the weeks big topics.

TWIT (This Week In Tech) – Every week Leo Laporte assembles a panel of industry experts to discuss the events of the week. The discussion is always lively and interesting.

Tekzilla – This weekly video podcast has Patrick Norton and Veronica Belmont showing off the latest gadgets and answering viewer questions. Not only is the show informative it’s also very enjoyable to watch, they make it quite fun. In addition to the weekly show there is a daily one minute tips cast you can subscribe to.

Data Security Podcast – Security is important to everyone, this show is a weekly news show that covers the latest in security news and views.

GeekBrief – Cali Lewis is a delightful bundle of energy, each day she does a five minute video to show you the coolest and geekest in gadgets. Just plain fun.

Loaded – Also a daily five minute show, but Natali DelConte brings a bit of a different spin to daily tech news. Natali is very professional in her presentation while also being very personable, a tough balancing act but she does it well.

Buzz Report – Molly Wood does a weekly wrap up of the week’s news that is just plain fun. I probably should put this in to a “Guilty Pleasures” category, which is just the very topic we’ll be looking at tomorrow.

That’s plenty to get you started, with this selection you’ll be able to keep up with what’s happening with the computer business. Tomorrow we’ll have some fun!

Podcast Junkie Week – Dot Net Development

If you are a .Net Developer it’s real easy to feed your Podcast addiction and become a Podcast Junkie like me. Here’s my favorites for keeping up with the wonderful world of .Net development.

DotNetRocks – The grand daddy of .Net podcasts, Richard and Carl now have well over 450 shows behind them. One of the oldest, some of the older shows are well worth listening to even now as they talk about practices and principals we still use today, not to mention the current shows delivering up to date news on .Net.

DNRTV – Hand in hand with the audio podcast is the DotNetRocks TV show. When audio is not enough, DNRTV steps in to show what you heard about in DotNetRocks.

DeepFriedBytes – I love this show, Keith and Woody interview folks and do it with a real flare of Southern Hospitality. Not only do they have interviews with interesting people but you get good ideas for new deep fried foods! I also love the “rusty washers” segments.

Hanselminutes – Each week Scott Hanselman does an interesting, creative interview with people all over the coding spectrum. It’s typically half an hour in length so easy for those with a short commute. Scotts style is very relaxed and enjoyable.

The Thirsty Developer – While most of the episodes lean toward .Net occasionally they throw in a show about non Microsoft topics, such as the recent show on HAML. I think it makes a nice balance to see what folks are doing who may be using tools different from mine.

Herding Code – Similar to the previous podcast, this one primarily focuses on .Net but takes occasional forays into other subjects.

Misfit Geek – This is a relatively new podcast with only two episodes under it’s belt. Both have been interesting though so I’m hopeful to see more in the near future.

Channel 9 – The site for Microsoft produced podcasts this is a firehose of information for all .Net developers. No matter what your specialty if you work with Microsoft tools there will be something here for you.

Whiile these ought to keep you busy for a while, I know tomorrow you’ll be eager for more. While keeping up with programming is important, I also think it’s vital to keep up with industry trends. The roll out of new computers and OS’s has a big effect on the life of a developer. In addition I also think it’s valuable to remember there are a lot of folks who work with computers all day who are not coders. Thus tomorrow we’ll take a look at the list of podcasts useful for knowing what’s going on in the computer industry.

Podcast Junkie Week – SQL Server

OK, I admit it! I am a complete and total Podcast Junkie. I listen or watch hours upon hours of podcasts each week. In large part they are how I keep up with what is going on in the industry, but they are also a great way to relax. I use my Zune and either listen or watch, or hook up my Zune 120 to the big TV and watch there. I have mentioned podcasts before, but it’s been quite a long time so I thought it was time to give an update on my current list of favorites. Hopefully you will find some good ones too.

We’ll start the week out with SQL Server related podcasts. There aren’t many, but they do exist.

SQL Down Under – Hosted by MVP Greg Low, each episode is an interview with someone interesting in the SQL Community. While the show is not regular, the past episodes are well worth listening to.

SQLServerpedia – This is a cornucopia of topics, they vary in length and frequency but are very useful, practical how to videos on a wide variety of SQL Server topics.

Voice of the DBA – Each day MVP Steve Jones brings you an interesting and informative editorial on subjects in the SQL Server world.

RunAs Radio – Strictly speaking this is not a SQL Server show, however Richard Campbell and Greg Hughes do bring SQL Server related episodes on a fairly regular basis. In addition many of the topics covered are of interest to SQL Server DBAs and thus is well worth the listen.

JumpstartTV.com – In the strictest sense the videos at JumpstartTV are not podcasts, since you must view them on their site and cannot download them to a portable media device. However their content is just too good not to pass along. There are a wide variety of short, focused videos, 3 to 5 minutes in length on average. Each video shows how to do one and only one thing, and most focus on the SQL Server realm. (Disclaimer, there is some video content on the site I produced.)

That’s all for today. If you have some suggestions on podcasts related to this subject, please leave a link in the comments below.

Tomorrow we’ll look at some of my favorite podcasts related to .Net development. On Wednesday we’ll look at podcasts about the computer industry in general. Then we’ll take a break and look at podcasts that are simply just for fun. Finally we’ll wrap Podcast Junkie week up with what is not only my favorite podcast but probably the most important one you’ll ever listen to.

We interrupt this blog to get Ramped Up!

I promise to wrap up the FILESTREAM series shortly, I just want to ensure all of the code samples are complete and properly documented. Meanwhile I have a cool website I want to pass along.

Last week my friend Doug Turnure of Microsoft was on Dot Net Rocks! He and his co-worker Johanna White were talking about a new training site, Ramp Up! Available at http://myrampup.com this is a very full featured training site. There are a series of topics to train on, and each topic is actually a complete training course. Each course is a series of lessons in a variety of formats.

Doug and Johannna have taken a unique approach to this site. For example, there are three different courses available to learn ASP.NET. One is for people coming from an ASP background, another for experienced JAVA developers, and a third for people with no web experience. What a great idea!

In addition they have retained or recycled material for developers who may not be working on the cutting edge. There is a course for people coming from VS2002/2003 to VS2005, for example. This is great, I meet a lot of developers who are just now shifting to the .Net 2.0 platform and are looking for good training material.

Congrats to Doug, Johanna and everyone involved in creating this site. It’s  a great idea, totally free, and make sure to visit it frequently as they will be adding more material as time goes by.

Stop That Annoying Auto Reboot After Patch Tuesday Updates

More than any day of the month, I always dread the Wednesday morning after Patch Tuesday. Sure, I like the fact that Windows automatically keeps my system as secure as possible by automatically downloading updates during the night and applying them. But I get so frustrated the morning after. My system has restarted, and I have to go through the entire login and reload all my apps just to check my e-mail and grab my latest podcasts via the Zune software. Not a pleasant thing to go through before your first cup of coffee. But thanks to todays Tekzilla tip, no more!!!

Today’s Tekzilla tip of the day discloses just how to set your system to no longer automatically reboot, but instead wait for you. It was so good I’m going to pass it along. First, you need to open the Group Policy Editor. In XP do a Start, Run, and type GPEDIT. In Vista you can also run GPEDIT from the command line.

When Local Group Policy Editor opens, navigate to Local Computer Policy, Administrative Templates, Windows Components, then finally Windows Update.

StopWindowsReboot

The row you are looking for is “No auto-restart with logged on users for scheduled automatic updates installations”. Double click on it, then change it’s state to enabled, then click OK.

StopWindowsReboot2

You will have to reboot your computer for this to take effect. Then the horror of waking up Wednesday mornings, dreading the overnight reboot will be a thing of the past.

While you are here, you may also wish to change the “Delay restart for scheduled installations” setting. By default this is set to 5 minutes. This is the screen that pops up and says ‘hey I just installed some stuff, I need to reboot to finish’ and your two choices are ‘Restart Now’ and ‘Restart Later’. But if you hit ‘Restart Later’ you are annoyed again a mere five minutes later. Well this is where you can adjust this. Open up the dialog, click Enabled, then you can change the time from the default of 5 minutes up to 30 minutes.

As with any time you go mucking around in your registry or policy settings, you do so at your own risk. Make sure you understand what is going on before you go changing things.

All I know is I’ll be sleeping a whole lot more soundly on Tuesday nights now.

Deep Fried Debugging

I was listening to the current episode of Deep Fried Bytes and was reminded of an important lesson. In case you haven’t heard of it, Deep Fried Bytes is a relatively new but very good development podcast. I highly recommend the podcast, it’s become a favorite on my Zune.

The hosts, Keith and Woody were interviewing members of the Microsoft.com support team. Yes, the guys who keep the actual Microsoft.com website up and running. Keith Woody asked them about a really challenging problem they hand, and one of the team recounted the tale of a site that had been in production about a year, when performance suddenly tanked. Naturally they went through the standard debugging questions, including “has anything changed in the code?” Since nothing had, they said “oh, well can’t possibly be the code” and went on to look at other things.

They went on to look at other things before finally, in desperation, coming back to the code. It turned out there was a scalability bug that had been there since day one, buried deep in a stored procedure. The select statement inside the stored proc caused a table scan. Not so bad when there were few records but after being up for a year the number of records was bogging down the stored proc.

I have been on many projects where a developer insisted the bug couldn’t possibly be in the code as it’s been running “perfect” and no recent changes have been made. The lesson to learn is never to rule out anything when looking for bugs. True, you should start with the most likely suspects, if no changes have been made to code then the probabilities of it being code are low as compared to say a hardware issue, but don’t rule it out completely. Get the entire team working in parallel. Let the developers look at the code, the DBAs at the database, admins at the server and network, and so on. Through teamwork, and being open to all possibilities you can achieve some deep fried debugging.

Boy Howdy Those Deep Fried Bytes Are Yummy

Long time readers of my blog or Twitter posts will know I am a big fan of podcasts. There’s a new one worth taking a listen to:

Deep Fried Bytes

Deep Fried Bytes is a new podcast hosted by Mississippi MVP Keith Elder and Chris “Woody” Woodruff. I listened to their inaugural episode on the way to the office this morning and quite enjoyed it. While they will cover all aspects of technology, they will have a heavy focus on .Net development.

The audio quality was superb, it may have been a first episode but their production quality and format made it sound like they’d been podcasting for years. I’ve already added the show to my Zune as a subscription, and recommended it to the Zune Marketplace. I’m eagerly looking forward to the next episode!

A Change of Pace

I got to do something today I rarely get to enjoy, telecommute. It was sort of forced on me, I pulled / tore a muscle in my back, and when exercise didn’t work the doctor gave me some meds. So until I was sure what the meds would do, I needed to avoid driving, and thus got to telecommute today.

The weather was so nice, I decided to sit out here on my screened in back porch all day. I used my main laptop to remote in to the office and take care of work. Most of it was downloading, testing, and fxiing my Virtual PCs all day. Necessary but time consuming tasks that don’t require a lot of brain power. So on a second laptop I tuned in to http://twitlive.tv . It was pretty cool to watch Leo live as recorded Security Now, Net@Nite, and a whole weeks worth of The Giz Wiz.

During lunch my family (we home school) joined me on the deck for some lunch. Now, as darkness has fallen my wife has brought me some home made sugar cookies, fresh and hot from the oven. Just perfect, with the stiff outer part but the gooey hot centers. Mmmm.

There’s nothing like a little change of pace to make your work day enjoyable. What kinds of things do you do for a change of pace?

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

Arcane Fun Fridays – Broadcast your Podcast

A little fun tip for today’s post. As long time readers know I love podcasts. They are a great way to capitalize on time, learning while doing other activities. As I was puttering around the house, I wished I had an easy way to listen to my podcasts without having to use my headphones, and also be portable. Then it occurred to me, I did.

When I drive back and forth to work, I use a cassette adapter to plug into my cheapy mp3 player into the my old car’s stereo and listen to my podcasts. Sometimes I travel on business, and these days it’s seldom I get a rental car with a cassette, so I picked up an inexpensive radio transmitter, similar to this one but a heck of a lot cheaper. Well, being an amateur radio operator (often called “ham radio”) I have a wide variety of power supplies lying around. I dug into my box and found one kind of like this. I mated them up, found an unused frequency, and plugged the other end of the transmitter into the speaker jack of my computer and boom I was listening to my podcasts through my various radios. Very nice, and I can see a lot of use.

I was pleased too with the range, I can hear it all over my house and even into my yard a bit. I could probably get a bit more range moving it out of my office basement.

One last hint for today, next time you go to various stores keep an eye out for a “clearance” area. They are usually tucked away in the back corner of the store, often near the restrooms. I know I’ve seen them in Staples, Radio Shack, Office Max and Office Depot to name a few. You can get some really good deals, for example I picked up my transmitter for 10 dollars, marked down from the original 49 bucks. Also check out sites like woot for “deal of the day” specials.

Straining at Gnats

Here in the south (I live in Alabama) we have a saying “quit straining at gnats”. A gnat, by the way, is a very tiny bug that proliferates during the summer and tends to fly in your face when you walk outdoors. The saying essentially means “you’re working very hard to get rid of something very small”.

In Episode 300 of Dot Net Rocks (a great episode) Richard Campbell tells a great story. The short version is Richard is called in to look at a computer that’s having problems. It’s the mid 80’s or so, and this PC is responsible for downloading financial info. Every hour the computer reboots itself and they have to go start it all back up. He says “I can fix it, but it’ll cost you 3 grand”. Client sputters and says they’ll think about it.

Two weeks later he gets the call “OK, you got the 3 grand, come fix it.” So on the way to the client he stops and spends 1500 bucks on a new PC, puts it in place at the client, copies all the old software over and boom it’s up and running perfectly. As he’s walking out the door, check in hand, he’s asked “what was wrong with it?” “Heck if I know.” Richard replies. “But the problems fixed.”

It’s a great story (and much funnier when you hear Richard tell it), but it illustrates a great point. All too often we obsess over some problem, and lose sight of the desired result. All too often we focus on some piece of code, trying to come up with the most “elegant” solution, or frustrate ourselves over some piece of code instead of tossing it and rewriting.

I’m not saying write bad code, or write sloppy code in a hurry just to get it done. I am saying when you run across a problem, don’t get so invested in it that you don’t see alternatives. Time and again I see a developer getting stuck on a problem, trying to fix some arcane piece of code, or spending hours to get that extra millisecond from a SQL query.

When you run across that road block, take some time. Push back from your computer and think for a moment. Think what the true outcome of your application is supposed to be. Not “what will the program do” but “what will the program do for the user???” Think about how best to achieve the users goals.

As Campbell pointed out several times in the episode, when you are writing software for a business it’s all about making money. Your program should either make or save the company money in some fashion. Whether it’s by crunching numbers in a faster, more efficient way than a human could, by providing information in a more timely fashion, or any of a thousand other scenarios. Never lose sight of the fact your software is to provide a solution, and not being written for artistic purposes.

Don’t get so lost in the code that you wind up straining at gnats.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 93 other followers