Life Without the Internet

I got home last night to discover my internet connection was down. I immediately went into withdrawals. No e-mail, no vpn, no podcast updates for my Zune, no Twitter, no IPTV. Last weekend I bought a new bigger / badder /better hard drive for my laptop in preparation for TechEd. I tried to install some software, but almost everything required an internet connection to validate, verify, and register.

I was amazed when I realized how much of my life had become dependant on the internet. I do a lot of social things, via the web. User group communications, announcements on, e-mail with other developers, and more.

Fortunately for me, my cherished bride suffered through 85 minutes of tech support calls this morning and worked to get the internet back up and running. Way to go baby! (In the interest of full disclosure, her motives were not entirely altruistic. She’s as big an internet junkie as I am. Nonetheless I do appreciate the pain and suffering she endured, having to call a tech support line. )

Life without the internet… it’s a scary place!

SQL Server Migration Assistant

At work we have an Oracle based system we’ll be retiring sometime next year. We want to keep the data around for reporting, but don’t have the manpower or funds to properly flatten the database into a true data warehouse schema. We are leaning then to copy the data into our SQL warehouse database in almost a direct copy of the legacy’s schema with just a few minor tweaks.

In looking around for an efficient way to handle this, I found a tool called the SQL Server Migration Assistant for Oracle. This handy tool will copy everything, tables, views, stored procedures, triggers, just about everything you’d want.

In my case, all I really want is the table layouts. I will be making a minor tweak to the table layouts so I can combine four databases into a single one. In just a few hours, I was able to use SSMA to generate create table scripts for several hundred tables. I then brought the script into my favorite text editor, UltraEdit, and used it’s regular expression capability to add a source database field as the first field in every create table script. Saved ’em, ran it and in short order have a complete schema ready to hold my data.

Even using the SQL Server Migration Assistant in such a limited fashion, I was still able to save myself weeks of coding and trying to figure out how to manually map Oracle datatypes to SQL Server. If you are looking at any kind of data conversion take a look at this tool. You can find more info on the SSMA site at:

Dunn Training coming to Montgomery

I just noticed that Dunn Training’s new schedule has them doing several classes in Montgomery. For those of you who don’t know the name, Mark Dunn was the original co-host of Dot Net Rocks. You can check out the current schedule at:

I took a BizTalk Server training class from them earlier this year, and can only describe it with one word: Outstanding. The debugging tips alone were worth it, but the entire class was chock full of info. I heartily endorse the training and highly recommend it for your educational needs.

Announcing Alabama Tech Events

Just do it. So goes the old marketing made popular some 20 plus years ago by an unnamed shoe company.

For some time I have heard, over and over, that we in the state of Alabama really need some centralized location to announce tech events. You know, user group meetings, code camps, events, and the like. The events don’t even have to be held in the state, just close enough to be of interest to folks here in Alabama. So this week instead of dutifully updating my blog, I’ve instead been hard at work on a new creation. After hearing “someone ought to…” I was either foolish or brave and decided to be that someone and “just did it”. Without further ado, I am happy to announce:


Alabama Tech Events

The purpose of the site is to post all upcoming meetings, events, and other articles of interest to the IT community in the state of Alabama. The site will be platform agnostic. I don’t care if your event is Microsoft, Linux, Apple, or based around some other platform. But let me make it clear, this is far from a solo effort.

I need the help of user group leaders throughout the southeast. If you have a group, are having regular meetings or a one time special IT event, let me know. I will give you the ability to create and edit your own posts as you need to. And that goes for groups / events in neighboring states as well. Alabama’s central location in the South East makes it ideal for easy commutes into adjoining states. If you are in Georgia, Florida, Tennessee or Mississippi by all means contact me and we’ll get you adding your events as well.

This isn’t limited to just user groups either, we will welcome business to post their events, as long as it is indeed an event of appeal to at least a segment of the IT community. About the only thing I’d say no to right now is job postings / resumes, there are plenty of other places built to handle that kind of thing.

One question I’ve already been asked, why a site for the whole state? Why not do one for each major city? Several reasons.

First, people do travel, so if I know there is going to be a user group meeting in a city I’ll be visiting, I’ll be sure to attend. Second, in some areas of the state there are user groups within a reasonable driving distance of each other. I live in Birmingham, so if a really major speaker were coming to say Montgomery, it would be an easy drive down that I would do in a heartbeat, as I’m sure many others would.

So there you go, a new site for the folks in the great state of Alabama to learn about tech events. I’ll say it one more time, if you are the leader of a user group, or an event planner or are somehow otherwise involved in tech events please contact me and let’s get you posting on Alabama Tech Events.

Twitter, Arcane Style

Twitter. You’ve probably heard it described a million ways. A micro blogging tool. Group instant messaging. Social networking. Keith Elder even described like “being in the speaker’s lounge at a code camp”. There are as many ways to use Twitter as there are reasons to use it. Of course, you can go right to and use the web interface. There are many desktop clients available too, my personal favorite is Witty. There are even ways to update your Twitter account from your cell phone or smart client mobile device.

There are two keys to making Twitter work for you. First, is to decide what sort of content you are looking for on Twitter, the second is to then follow people who will deliver that kind of content to you. Many people use Twitter to keep others updated on what’s going on in their lives. Where they are hanging out, who they saw that day, what their day was like, etc. Mostly (IMHO) stuff your Mom wants to know.

The next reason to Twitter is to receive information from companies. Places like keep you informed of their deal of the day, which means the info is pushed to me instead of me having to go hunt it down. One of our local TV stations also Twitters to let us know of bad weather events that may be coming.

The final reason I’ll mention is the reason I Twitter, for good technical content. I’ve chosen a mixture of people who Tweet a steady stream of links and tips that I can learn from. I also try to provide relevant posts with useful info.

So, you’ve decided you want to get on Twitter. You’ve gone to and signed up for an account. Now what? Well, you need to decide who you want to follow. There are several ways to do this. First, you can find someone you already know about. I’m assuming you’ve logged into Twitter, and are staring at your home page. Up in the text box next to the Twitter logo where it says “Name or location” type in my Twitter name, arcanecode (all one word) and press enter. You will get a result with me in it, just click on the “Follow” link and you’ll begin to see my Tweets when you refresh the page.

Now you can look at my profile, and look at the list of folks that either I’m following or are following me. (I’d suggest the following page, since it’s more discriminating). You can then choose to follow those folks.

Another way is to search for people in or near the town where you live. Back on your Twitter home page, in the Name or Location box type in the City, ST where you want to look for and press enter. This will produce a list of people who have identified themselves as being in your town. Look over the list, click on their profiles. See how frequently they post, when their last post was, and most important are their posts of interest to you.

I’ll mention one other thing, a common convention when you see someone’s twitter name is to use an @ sign in front, for example @arcanecode. When using an @ sign, Twitter will automatically route that message to the person so they can see it.

To get you started, here is a short list of technical folks I follow for one reason or another. If you want to see my full list, just look at my Twitter profile and click on Following.

Birmingham Twitterers

@arcanecode – That’s me!

@jeff_barnes – MVP for Connected Systems (WCF)

@tmiranda – MVP for UI (WPF guru)

@KV4S – Fellow ham and software developer

Southeast Twitterers

@keithelder – MVP from Mississippi and the person who got me hooked on Twitter

@dougt – Microsoft Developer Evangelist for the Southeast and all around swell guy, no matter what Glen says.

@glengordon – Host of “GeekSpeak” on Channel 9

@TheADOGuy – Co-author of many of the .Net training books and magazine articles, recently into Silverlight

@vinull – Speaker out of Knoxville TN and .Net Developer

@dougal – One of the authors of WordPress, one time room mate of @glengordon, and my brother in law.

Nationally Known Twitterers

@shanselman – Host of Hanselminutes and nationally known speaker

@carlfranklin – Host of DotNetRocks

@codinghorror – If you don’t know who this guy is, you should

@twitlive – Leo Laporte’s information stream for his new website.

@leolaporte – Host of the Twit.TV network, former TechTV star

@patricknorton – Host of Tekzilla, former TechTV star

@saraford – Famous for her Visual Studio tip of the day blog

I’ll wrap this up to an apology with all the folks I couldn’t mention, there were just too many. I follow a lot of really great folks and you’ve all provided me with some great information. Thanks!

Now, to the rest of you go out and start Twittering!

Birmingham Tech News and Events

There are some big doings going on in the event community over the next few weeks.

First off, this Thursday May 8th at 6:30 pm the Birmingham Software Developers Association (BSDA) will be having “The Variety Show”. Join us for a variety of 15 minute presentations by various club members on what they’ve been working on lately–there should be something for everyone and the floor is open for anyone who’d like to do a short presentation.

On Friday, May 9th the IPSA group will meet during lunch at the McWane center, the topic will be The Social Media Toolbox.

Next week, the Birmingham .Net User Group (Bug.Net) will be having it’s regular meeting on May 13th at 6:30 pm. Stay tuned to their website for speaker and details.

Then, on Wednesday, May 14th at 6:30 pm the BSDA and Bug.Net are pleased to co-present a special event. Regional speaker Michael Neel will be here to talk on DataSets:

DataSets are Evil. They will hog your CPU, steal your RAM, and rob your home. This is the story surrounding DataSets, but what is fact and what is myth? In this session we will look at DataSets and the tools that go with them to see how they can save you development time while not crashing the server. We’ll also dive into DataSets in 2008 with LINQ to DataSets and Unit Testing with DataSets.

Learn more about Michael at

Finally, beginning at 5:30 pm on May 20th the Steel City SQL Group will meet. MVP Kevin Bowles will be here to talk about SQL Server 2008 Development. Kevin is a great speaker, his sessions are always loaded with useful information.

With the exception of the IPSA meeting, all of the other events will be held at the New Horizons training center in Homewood. A special thanks to the folks at New Horizons for making their facilities open to the Birmingham user group community!

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 . 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?