No Fun with Slow Internet and Big Downloads

I’m taking this rare opportunity to post a bit of a rant.

I live in a rural part of the country. It’s a beautiful area, lots of woods, nature, a very quiet area.

With that comes some downsides, including slow internet. My home speed is a blazing twelve megabits. I have a relative’s house I work at in another part of the state, there the internet is a mere three megabits.

At the same time, software updates seem to be growing larger and larger. The most recent update to Apple’s XCode was over twelve gig. There is a video editing package called DaVinci Resolve that regularly puts out two gig updates.

These take incredibly lengthy periods of time to download at my home, assuming the connection doesn’t drop or reset mid-download. I wind up going to coffee shops or the library where there is faster internet that allows me to receive these large updates. Even in these locations the fastest speed is one hundred megabits, shared among all its users.

I’m not the only person in this situation. At conferences (back in the pre-COVID days when we had them) I often spoke with other attendees who lived under similar circumstances.

Of course, the real solution is to get faster internet to our rural communities, both here in the US and worldwide. Much of our planet is dependent on the internet for communications, business, and more, to the point where it is becoming a necessity.

Unfortunately, infrastructure is not cheap, nor is it quick to roll out. So, until that happens, I’d really like for software makers to remember those of us with slower connections.

Instead of multi-gigabyte updates, I’d love to see software makers create smaller patches for their software, instead of a basic complete reinstall of the applications. Yes, it would require more testing, but would result in lower demands on their corporate servers and bandwidth.

Perhaps if others across the planet joined our voices it may have a positive effect, both in reducing download sizes and in getting a meaningful truly high-speed internet infrastructure in place.


Atlanta Code Camp 2013

On Saturday August 24, 2013 I’m presenting “What’s New In PowerShell v3… and 4!” at the Atlanta Code Camp. If you would like a copy of the demos, you can e-mail me either arcanecode at or rcain at

Or, if you have BitTorrent Sync, you can use this secret key to get a copy of all my demos: BYEHZZ5K2DQ2AEBJDVSS4UUHZEGG646GZ  (Note this is the read-only key.)

Books That Changed My Career / Life – CodeStock 2011 Open Spaces

At this years CodeStock conference in Knoxville we had a very active open spaces area. The session I suggested and helped with was on “Books That Changed My Career / Life”. As a group we came up with a list of books that had made an impact on lives. Our only rule was it couldn’t be directly tech, for example a book like SQL Server MVP Deep Dives. (#shamelessplug)

The list was quite surprising. Of course there were some of the classics like the 7 Habits book, or tech related books such as Code by Charles Petzold, who was also the keynote speaker. Also not a surprise were some motivational books, such as those by Seth Godin.

The rest of the list had some surprises, at least for me. There were several works of fiction included, because the participants said it revealed new ways of thinking to them.

So without any more fanfare, here is the list in the order presented. When the author was known, I put their name next to the title after the dash. For any authors out there whose names I’ve misspelled, my apologies. Book titles were being flung out fast and furious and I may have missed the correct spelling. Also in some cases the book author wasn’t known at the time the list was being compiled.

At some point I hope to clean this list up, sort it into groups and add hyperlinks to sites where the book can be obtained. Since I didn’t want to delay publishing the list however, I present it below as it was created at the open spaces session. If you were in attendance, a big thanks! And if you have any corrections please feel free to leave a comment below, it’d be a big help to me and everyone who attended or sees this list.

Rework – Hasson & Fried

Tribes – Seth Godin

Linchpin – Seth Godin

Less – Mark Lesser

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert Pirsig

The Tao of Pooh – Benjamin Hoff

Who Moved My Cheese

Aramis, or For the Love of Technology – Bruno Latour

Tick Tock – James Patterson

Crush It – Vaynerchuck

Secrets of a Buccaneer Scholar

In the Beginning Was The Command Line – Neil Stephenson

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand

Anthem – Ayn Rand

Libertarianism – Boaz

Leaves of Grass – Lewsky

Cuckoo’s Egg – Clifford Stole

Rouge Warriors Strategy Guide to Success – Richard Marcinko

Elements of Style – Strunk and White

The War of Art – Pressfield

Getting Real

The E-Myth

Enders Game

Griftopia – Taibbi

Last Lecture – Randy Pausch

On Writing – Stephen King

The Hardboiled Wonderland and the End Of The World

Here Comes Everybody

The Way of the Peaceful Warrior – Milman

7 Habits of Highly Successful People


Hackers and Painters – Paul Graham



Beautiful Visualizations

Presentation Zen – Reynolds

The Romans – Richard Talbert

Influence – Cialdini

Socratic Selling

The God Who Was There – Francis Schaffer

The Shack

Hard Drive

The Goal – Elihayu Goldratt

Beyond the Goal – Elihayu Goldratt

Dreaming in Code

4 Hour Work Week

Cognitive Surplus

Do The Work – Pressfield

Pragmatic Thinking and Learning

Makers – Cory Doctorow

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom– Cory Doctorow

Daemon – Daniel Suarez

Freedom – Daniel Suarez

Total Money Makeover – Dave Ramsey

Anathem – Neil Stephenson

The Second Son – Charles Sailor

Rich Dad Poor Dad

You Are Not A Gadget

Drive – Daniel Pink

Millionaire Mind

Code – Charles Petzold


Video mentions

In addition to the list of above books, two video series were recommended. These titles are below.

Business of Software by Kathy Sierra

Webstock – An Australian based conference that makes their videos available for later viewing

CodeStock 2011

Thanks to all who showed up for my “SSIS for Developers” session at CodeStock. For those interested here’s my slide deck. Once again CodeStock was a great success, we had a lot of interesting sessions to attend. Additionally the Open Spaces forum on Saturday was great fun, and stimulated a lot of great conversation. For those who were in the “Books that changed my career” space be patient, I’m still working on the list so look later this week for blog post on it.

CodeStock 2011

Thanks to all who showed up for my “SSIS for Developers” session at CodeStock. For those interested here’s my slide deck. Once again CodeStock was a great success, we had a lot of interesting sessions to attend. Additionally the Open Spaces forum on Saturday was great fun, and stimulated a lot of great conversation. For those who were in the “Books that changed my career” space be patient, I’m still working on the list so look later this week for blog post on it.

Geeks Helping Out

As some of you know I live just outside of Birmingham AL. A few weeks ago this area was ravaged by a series of devastating tornados. Over 200 people were killed, thousands are homeless in the aftermath.

As needs were expressed, a lot of immediate ones were met, such as food, water, clothing. One interesting one that came out was for luggage or other bags to carry things in. Many folks were getting help in the form of clothes and groceries, but had nothing to put them in.

Having been to many community events I had more than my share of backpacks and bags, and cheerfully donated them. It occurred to me other geeks might have the same situation, more backpacks than you can ever use, but too nice to just throw away.

So I put a shout out to some of my fellow SQL MVPs, and have already received some bags. I want to give a special shout out to my fellow MVP Paul Turley, whose bags were not only the first to arrive, but his kids included some backpacks especially for other children.

I wanted to extend the opportunity to other geeks in the community. If you have backpacks or other bags from various events, or perhaps you’ve run an event and have tons of swag bags left over, please send them to me! I’ll be glad to coordinate sending them to my local drop off center.

If you have other left overs, such as t-shirts and the like, you are welcome to send those as well, we’ll take whatever we get to the various relief centers.

If you want to help just send me an e-mail and I’ll pass along further details, you can get me at n4ixt @

Note, as I write this I see some severe tornados have hit Missouri, Oklahoma, and Kansas in the last 24 hours or so. I don’t know anyone in those areas, but if you live close to them you might consider helping those folks as well, I’m sure they will have many of the same needs as those here in in the great state of Alabama.

Thanks too to all those that have already helped out.

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.

The Presenters Packing List

In my previous post I mentioned a packing list. I use this list prior to heading out to speaking engagements. I thought others might find it useful so I thought I’d put it here, along with a short explanation when needed.

Laptop – Pretty obvious

Backup Laptop – I bring my netbook along, as a backup computer. Just in case the main one dies.

External Hard Drive – I also bring along an external drive that has all my presentations, necessary ISOs, etc. This way in a real crisis I can borrow another presenters laptop to do my presentation. This actually happened at a SQL Saturday, only it was my laptop that got borrowed when a fellow presenters laptop failed to boot. Fortunately he had everything on a thumb drive.

Extension cord – I have been in a few venues where the power plug was almost out of reach. I keep a 12 foot extension cord in my bag that has three, three prong outlets on it. Even if you don’t need it for your presentation, it’s quite handy in the hotel room, and especially so if you’re flying. Often waiting areas have few outlets, most of which are usually occupied. I’ve never been turned down though when I whip out my handy extension cord and ask if we could both plug into it.

CAT-5 Network Cable – I keep a 12 foot network cable in my backpack, I’ve been to several places that had no wireless but did have wired. Heck, even going to business meetings it’s come in hand on more than one occasion. Also great in the hotel room as you can run the cord a distance and relax in bed.

Spare Mouse – Normally I like a trackball, but it’s easy enough to forget, so I keep a small travel mouse in my bag all the time.

Presenters Mouse – Please, please, please my fellow presenters! If you are going to present and have more than 3 slides in your presentation invest in a decent presenters mouse. It’s very distracting when you stand by the screen, then have to keep running back to your laptop to advance to the next slide.

Zune – True, I don’t use it during the presentation, but I keep it handy when I travel.

Kindle – Again, not used during presentation, but a great way to make the trip go by quickly, or to look up an answer to something you’ve been asked.

Cell phone – OK, I admit it, I once went to a week long convention and left my cell phone sitting in my desk charger at home.

USB Cords – Check to make sure you have all the cords you need for all the toys you are bringing. You will need at least one for each device, so you can interface with and also recharge.

Powered USB Hub – If you have more than a few devices, you might also wish to bring along a powered USB hub. Even if you don’t plug it into your laptop you can still use it to charge all your stuff.

Spare Batteries – I use rechargeable batteries in everything, a great investment and good for the environment. Before I leave I swap out batteries in everything I’m bringing for fresh ones, and make sure to bring enough spares to resupply everything at least once. If you are going to be gone a long time, you might also bring along your battery charger.

USB Thumbdrives – I keep a few thumbdrives in my bag, usually ones I picked up at some conference for free. I’m often asked by attendees if they can get a copy of my demos/slides, but then they don’t have a drive. Sometimes I even have the foresight to put the material on them in advance.

Business Cards – I bring along a big stack of business cards, they are easy to hand out (put a pile by the door and near or on the podium). Let’s face it, while business may not be your main motivation for being there, you wouldn’t want to turn any potential new customers down either.

Pen/paper – Keep a small notepad and paper handy, it’s great for writing down contact info, or “to do’s” that arise during an event.

Mouse pad – Sometimes your mouse just won’t work where you need it to, maybe the surface is too reflective, or not reflective enough. A spare mouse pad fixes that quickly.

Laptop cable locks – If I’m going to a multi-day conference, I might only need my big laptop for the day of my presentation. For the other days my netbook will do fine. To make sure my big laptop is safe in my room I use a cable lock to secure it to my desk or some other fixed object. Also handy if you want to leave it in a speakers lounge for a while, sadly there have been incidents where laptops have gone missing.

Penlight – I keep an inexpensive penlight in my bag, sometimes I have to get down low to run my power cord / video cable, or perhaps dig deep in my bag for something. A little extra light never hurts.

Swiss Army Knife – I have a collection of Swiss Army Knives, but by far my favorite is the CyberTool. It’s made for working on computers, I’ve found it extremely useful. Warning, you can’t take this on the airplane with you thanks to TSA rules, but you can put it in your suitcase so you have it while you are at your destination.

Swag – If you plan to give away anything, don’t forget to bring it along.

Cash – Keep a small amount of money in your bag. Maybe $20 (or the equivalent in your local currency). Keep it in small bills, plus a few dollars in coins. One late Sunday night I was caught in an airport with no open restaurants. Naturally there’s been no meal service on the plane and I was hungry. Fortunately I had quite a few ones and some change on me, so I was able to grab some food from the vending machines. Not fine cuisine, but kept me alive and my stomach from rumbling. Also handy if you have a car and need to stay in a parking deck or feed a curbside parking meter.

Power Supplies – Don’t forget them.

The “Extras”

Sometimes when I travel, if I’m going by my own vehicle and I’ll be there for several days, or if I’m helping to host an event, I’ll grab my “extras” bag. It’s a spare laptop bag, one of a bunch I’ve gotten from attending various conferences. In it I toss in things I might need. Among some of the contents are:

Extra CAT5 network cables; Extension VGA cables; A power bar with multiple outlets; small network hub; a variety of USB cables; Extra earbuds for my Zune;

Start Packing

Well there’s my list. Use it and adapt it as you see fit. Feel free to leave a comment with your own ideas of things in your laptop travel bag.

Speaking on the SS Titanic

If you listened to the episode of Deep Fried Bytes that I was interviewed on you’ll recall I was interviewed along side fellow SQL Server MVP Denny Cherry (blog | twitter). He recently wrote a blog post called “When the demo’s don’t work the men and women are separated from the boys and girls.

I know from the perspective of the audience it looks like presenters are calm, rehearsed and have everything under control. Sadly, we are usually freaked out, winging it, and trying to herd a group of cats.

Well OK, it’s not quite that bad, but sometimes it does feel like it, especially when disaster hits in the form of our demos going bad. Denny and several others have been sharing stories about their demo disasters so I thought I’d give you a glimpse into the scary mind that is Arcane Code and share with you too.

Demoing Beta software is a lot like working with kids and animals

The old show business wisdom of “never work with kids or animals” could easily extend to beta software. I was demoing the early beta of PowerPivot. I’d rehearsed and work though my presentation several times all without a hitch. So naturally when I was doing it before the audience, nothing seemed to work right. The data imports crashed, none of the charts would display correctly, and it crashed Excel twice. What to do?

Well, I’m a big believer in Scott Berkun’s advice in “Confessions of a Public Speaker”. Let the audience in on it, don’t try to BS. Heck, a lot of the time there are people in the audience far smarter than I am. I’ve even had PHD’s attend my sessions. Even if an audience member is new at coding they’re still smart enough to smell someone trying to feed them a line.

So I simply admitted what was happening, explained what they should be seeing, and kept going. I skipped ahead to some things that were working, fortunately this group took an intermission about halfway through the meeting for a pizza break. While they chowed down I was able to reboot, and get the demos working again. I even had enough time for a few pieces of pepperoni myself!

When they returned, I brought them up to speed on what I’d done, showing them the now working pivot charts. I finished off the section I was on, then returned to my original flow.

A pretty shade of Blue

On two occasions I’ve been bitten by the “Blue Screen Of Death” The first was trivial, I was presenting at CodeStock last year. (By the way CodeStock is open for registration and speaker call, go check it out.) Just as I advanced to the very last slide in my deck, the “any questions here’s my e-mail/blog again” slide, the audience started laughing. I turned to see the “BSOD” screen on the big projector. Fortunately the session was over and I was able to field questions without needing the computer.

The other time though had a bit more of an impact. It was fairly early in my presentation and I had installed Windows 7 Beta 1 on my PC so I could learn it. A few slides in my laptop screen suddenly went black. I was puzzled then saw a BSOD quickly followed by a reboot. What to do?

Well, I just made a quip about using beta software, then proceeded to talk about what had been on the slide I’d been showing and the next one as well while my machine rebooted and I started launching PowerPoint and my demos. It’s a bit hard to talk and launch, but you can get the hang of it, and I think short pauses are OK, especially if the audience sees what’s up. Remember, they can feel your pain, everyone has experienced that lovely shade of blue at some time or another.

More power Scotty, I need more power!

My worst disaster wasn’t directly demo related, nor did the audience ever see it, but it was still a nightmare. I had traveled 3 hours to attend a SQL Saturday. I got to the hotel about 11 pm, to my horror I found I’d left my laptop power supply at home. To make it worse, I’d been using the laptop on the way over (don’t worry my lovely wife was driving) so there wasn’t a lot of battery power left.

Fortunately my wife had her laptop. I wound up staying up until 4 am downloading the various ISOs I needed to install the software I needed to do demos on her computer. Bleary eyed I showed up the next day and was able to do my presentations, using her laptop plus sucking up the remaining power on my laptop. It was a close call, on my laptop I had about 15 minutes of power left when my session was over.

Pain is funny

If you look at YouTube, you’ll find no shortage of people hurting themselves. Falling off things, getting whacked in inappropriate body parts, and we all laugh. So as you laugh at my pain, I hope you’ll take away some of the lessons I learned, should you speak, or even do a presentation at your office.

1. Never BS. Follow Burken’s advice, if something goes wrong simply acknowledge it and move on.

2. Know your stuff. When your computer crashes, and it will, be prepared to keep talking. Know your slides well enough so you can talk even without them. Be prepared to describe in vivid detail what the audience would see if Visual Studio / SQL Server / your tool of choice was running.

3. Create a list, and check it twice. After the forgotten power supply incident, I created a packing list. I have on it all the things I’ll need to do demos with. I check it, and double check it, before I zipper up my laptop bag and suitcase.

4. Have a backup box. I got home from a trip a few years ago, to find the internal screen on my laptop had quit working. I was lucky that it was when I got home, but it still taught me a lesson. Now when I head out, I have two laptops, my main demo box and my netbook.

As netbooks are relatively inexpensive, it wasn’t a big investment, plus with their long battery life they are great for pulling out and taking notes on all day. True, there are a few things I cannot do on my 2 gig netbook that I can do on my 8 gig laptop, but I can at least still run PowerPoint, show the code, etc, even if I can’t run the main demos.

I also keep an external portable hard drive handy. On it I have all the ISOs I might need to load up a computer with the software I need to do a demo. I also have all my demos backed up on it, along with a nifty piece of freeware called Virtual Clone Drive. It installs easily, and lets you mount an ISO as if it were another CD / DVD drive.

As you can see, public speaking is not all fun and games. But it’s intensely gratifying, and I encourage you to give it a try if you ever get the chance.

Give Camp Birmingham

This weekend Give Camp Birmingham will take place. If you’ve not heard of Give Camps before, they are a chance for developers to put their expert skills to use to help out charities. Typically developers will setup or update websites for these charities, train them on social media, or help with other technical tasks.

To find out more, just go to, all of the details are there along with a link to register.

Hope to see you there!