Category Archives: Education

SQL Saturday Redmond – October 3 2009

I am fortunate enough to be able to give three presentations at Redmond WA’s SQL Saturday event. The first session is “Introduciton to Data Warehousing / Business Intelligence”. Here is the PDF slide deck for that presentation. (Right click and save as if you want to save a copy for later reference).

The second presentation is SQL Server Full Text Searching. You can find the slide deck in PDF format as well as sample code at

The final presentation of the day was Introduction to SQL Server Integration Services. The sample project, slide deck, and step by step instructions can be found at . In addition I also showed how to call SSIS from a .Net application. You can find that sample at .

WordCamp Birmingham 2009 – Freedom of Speech

Over the weekend I attended WordCamp Birmingham 2009. For those of you who don’t know, WordCamp is a code camp for WordPress users and developers. WordPress is a very popular open source blogging engine. Users can download the WordPress engine from, then customize it to their needs.

WordPress can do some pretty amazing things, many of the developers there specialize in customizing WordPress to individual corporate needs, and transforming WordPress to a full Content Management System (CMS).

In addition to being an open source engine, it’s sister sight,, is a hosting site. Through it you can create your own blog, for free. You can customize your blog from a variety of base templates, then add further custom tweaks through the various widgets and plug-ins offered by the folks. For minimal fees you can add a custom domain name, and extend the amount of space you have available.

That’s what I’ve done with this blog. Arcane Code is hosted on, and I pay the small fee (about 15 dollars US per year) to have the URL. You may ask “gee Robert, you’re a smart guy, why let them host and not get the software from the .org site and host yourself?” You’re right, I am a smart guy! 😉 Seriously, I could host the engine myself, but to be honest I would rather spend my time writing blog posts than worrying about upgrading my blog software to the current version. I let the nice folks at take care of those headaches for me.

Of course there are a few restrictions with the .com site that I would not have with the .org software and self hosting. The biggest is no advertising, I can’t sell ads on the blog while it’s on the .com site. I’m also limited on templates and customizations, I have to use the built in .com templates, with the .org software the sky is the limit to what I want to do. For not having to deal with the headaches of managing my blog engine though, these are trade off’s I’m willing to make. One day in the future I may change my mind, but for now I’m quite happy.

But enough about the blogging software, let’s talk about WordCamp. For my .Net developer buddies or fellow SQL geeks, WordCamp is just like any code camp or SQL Saturday you’ve been to. Speakers are organized into one or more tracks. Most of the speakers are from the local community or surrounding region, with a few big wigs thrown in for good measure.

This year Innovation Depot hosted the Saturday tracks, one for developers and the other for bloggers. The blogger track was aimed at new users or folks who simply wanted to work with social media, and leave the technical considerations to others. The developer track was for the geeks who liked to customize and develop widgets and plug ins for use with WordPress. Lunch was some great BBQ, fitting for a true southern event.

The Sunday event took place at Shift Workspace, which is a facility where you can rent space to work in for under $50 US a month. Tables, comfortable chairs, coffee and soda, and all the wi-fi you can eat. It’s a nice place, and the format was very open. On the first floor small groups gathered to discuss and debate topics around the software. The second floor was the experts area, I saw many groups of two huddled around laptops, getting and giving advice on particular issues folks were having.

The highlight of the event was Matt Mullenweg’s lunchtime keynote on Saturday. Matt is the original creator of WordPress, it was his idea and his guidance that made it successful. In addition Matt also founded a company to host and provide extra services for advanced users. In addition to being a good businessman Matt is also a great speaker, his lunch time presentation was both informative and humorous.

Also in attendance was Dougal Campbell. Dougal was one of the original group of developers of WordPress. He and Matt have been working together on the open source software since 2003. Oddly enough this event was something of a historic occasion for them, even though they have been e-mailing and phone calling with each other since 2003, this weekend was the first time Matt and Dougal had actually met face to face! In the interest of full disclosure I should add that Dougal is my brother-in-law, he is married to my kid sister. But I won’t hold that against him.

The closing keynote on Saturday was from an Iranian Bahrainian blogger. In the interest of protecting their security I won’t say too much, but it was a very moving presentation that reminded us all of how great a privilege freedom of speech is. One Iranian blogger has already died in jail, and another Egyptian blogger is currently in jail right now for doing nothing more than speaking his opinions through his blog. 

I have to give the organizers high marks, the event was run well, lunch arrived on time, and plenty of it. There was a big crowd, I heard about 165 registered, and I think just about every one of them made it from the crowds I saw. We had such a good response the organizers even spoke about the possibility of creating a WordPress user group of sorts, and having smaller events either on a monthly or quarterly basis.

This was a really fun event. I saw some friends (and relatives if you count Dougal) and met a lot of new people. I talked to folks from Nashville TN, Charlotte NC, Atlanta GA, and one lady from New Jersey. I also heard about one person coming in from Arkansas and another from Texas. I also came away with some great ideas around social networking, and using various forms of multimedia to enhance information and knowledge transfer in the work place. I spoke to a lawyer who specializes in discovery and got into an interesting discussion about data mining of unstructured data. I also have an idea that might be relevant for a presentation next year. Finally I am struck with the notion of taking WordPress and making it a dashboard for a SQL Server Business Intelligence solution. Hmmm…..

All in all it was a great WordCamp, and I’m looking forward to the 2010 event.

Intro to DW/BI at the Steel City SQL Users Group

Tonight I’ll be presenting “Introduction to Data Warehousing / Business Intelligence” at the Steel City SQL users group, right here in Birmingham Alabama. If you attended my Huntsville presentation last week, I’ve already added some new slides and revised the deck, so it will be worth another look.

My slide deck is IntroToDataWarehouse.pdf . Come join us tonight at 6 pm at New Horizons, there will be pizza and fun for all.

UPDATE: Before the presentation I was showing a video of Sara Ford jumping off a tower to support CodePlex. Got tons of laughs so here’s a link to the video:

Data Warehousing / BI at the next HuntUG Meeting!

Business Intelligence is one of the most in demand skill sets right now. Do you want to know more about it? Be guided through all the terminology and concepts? Do you live in the Huntsville Alabama area? Well here’s your golden opportunity!

On Tuesday, September 8th I will be presenting “Introduction to Data Warehousing / Business Intelligence” at the next meeting of the Huntsville User Group. I’ll demystify all the terms around DW/BI and give a demonstration of the Microsoft SQL Server tools used in the DW/BI process. See their site for meeting time and directions. 

SSIS For Developers at CodeStock 2009

At the 2009 CodeStock event I am presenting SQL Server Integration Services for Developers. This class will demonstrate tasks commonly done by VB.Net or C# developers within SQL Server Integration Services.

The sample project and documentation for the lab can be found on the code gallery site at .

Big Thinkers – Mark Miller


I’m devoting this week to “Big Thinkers”. I want to highlight individuals who challenge my thought processes and cause me to think about my profession, my methodologies, and force me to reflect on my skills. Some of these individuals I have the privilege of knowing personally, others I have only known via Podcasts or Twitter. I’m hoping that by highlighting these Big Thinkers you too will be challenged to grow and evolve in your craft.

Mark Miller is an insane genius. I can think of no other way to describe his quirky sense of humor, unbridled energy, and extreme coding ability. What he does for me though is make me think deeply about user interfaces, and how they can make or break my application. Not just in vague ways either, Mark can demonstrate in concrete terms what makes a good UI. How many pixels does the mouse have to travel in order to let the user accomplish the task? Are the colors used of a similar hue and shade? How can I use contrast most effectively in my user interface?

Of course in some ways the education I’ve received is a classic double edge sword. Now when I sit down with a new app I began analyzing it in terms of what I know, and immediately thinking of how it could be better. Some might call that hubris, I prefer to think of it as critical thinking based on good UI design methodologies preached by the “Millenator”.

Mark has appeared on Dot Net Rocks numerous times, including Episodes 80, 101, 134, 153, 185, 338, and 395. He has also done a ‘boat load’ of DNR TV episodes, including Episodes 5, 40, 44, 72, and 107. His best work though, can be seen in the two part DNR TV series on “The Science of a Great User Experience”, Episodes 112 and 123. In these episodes Mark actually demonstrates good UI in a way that you can visually see the clear improvements using the techniques he recommends.

I can think of no better way to wrap up Big Thinkers week than to recommend the mad genius that is Mark Miller.

But wait, there’s more! This week I focused on Big Thinkers in the development community. Next week I’ll put on my other hat and focus on Big Thinkers in the SQL Server community!

Big Thinkers – Robert “Uncle Bob” Martin


I’m devoting this week to “Big Thinkers”. I want to highlight individuals who challenge my thought processes and cause me to think about my profession, my methodologies, and force me to reflect on my skills. Some of these individuals I have the privilege of knowing personally, others I have only known via Podcasts or Twitter. I’m hoping that by highlighting these Big Thinkers you too will be challenged to grow and evolve in your craft.

“Uncle Bob” Martin has been in the computer industry since 1970. As such he has some great stories to tell, many of which I can relate to having gotten into computers in the late 70’s myself. Uncle Bob is not only concerned with coding, but with the act of coding. He sees coding as a profession and encourages us to take pride in that profession. He is also the inventor of the SOLID principals of coding. Most of all when I listen to him I think about the way I code, the way I architect applications, and stop for a moment to actually think before I start hammering out code.

Uncle Bob has been on many podcasts, including Episode 388 of Dot Net Rocks, Episodes 145 and 150 of Hanselminutes, and Episode 41 of Stack Overflow. I hope you enjoy listening to him as much as I do.