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  • Fun with Database Mail

    - by DavidWimbush
    I just had some fun with a new server I set up. I configured Database Mail but it wouldn't send mail. In the Database Log was an error message I've never had before: The mail could not be sent to the recipients because of the mail server failure. (Sending Mail using Account 1 (2010-02-15T16:58:54). Exception Message: Could not connect to mail server. (A non-recoverable error occurred during a database lookup). ) I looked around and found this forum thread: http://www.sqlteam.com/forums/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=139909. I looked into the anti-virus software and firewall but neither of those helped. Then I noticed the last post where they original poster said "oops, I put an @ in the name of the SMTP server". How I laughed. What a ***! At least my problem isn't because I did something that careless. But then that little voice in my head said "Better check, just to be on the safe side". SMTP Server Name: [email protected] Who's the *** now? So, rbarlow, thanks very much for making the same silly mistake first so I could find the answer. (And I'm sorry for thinking you were a ***!)

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  • Upgrading log shipping from 2005 to 2008 or 2008R2

    - by DavidWimbush
    If you're using log shipping you need to be aware of some small print. The general idea is to upgrade the secondary server first and then the primary server because you can continue to log ship from 2005 to 2008R2. But this won't work if you're keeping your secondary databases in STANDBY mode rather than IN RECOVERY. If you're using native log shipping you'll have some work to do. If you've rolled your own log shipping (ahem) you can convert a STANDBY database to IN RECOVERY like this:   restore database [dw]   with norecovery; and then change your restore code to use WITH NORECOVERY instead of WITH STANDBY. (Finally all that aggravation pays off!) You can either upgrade the secondary server in place or rebuild it. A secondary database doesn't actually get upgraded until you recover it so the log sequence chain is not broken and you can continue shipping from the primary. Just remember that it can take quite some time to upgrade a database so you need to factor that into the expectations you give people about how long it will take to fail over. For more details, check this out: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc645954(SQL.105).aspx

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  • Have you really fixed that problem?

    - by DavidWimbush
    The day before yesterday I saw our main live server's CPU go up to constantly 100% with just the occasional short drop to a lower level. The exact opposite of what you'd want to see. We're log shipping every 15 minutes and part of that involves calling WinRAR to compress the log backups before copying them over. (We're on SQL2005 so there's no native compression and we have bandwidth issues with the connection to our remote site.) I realised the log shipping jobs were taking about 10 minutes and that most of that was spent shipping a 'live' reporting database that is completely rebuilt every 20 minutes. (I'm just trying to keep this stuff alive until I can improve it.) We can rebuild this database in minutes if we have to fail over so I disabled log shipping of that database. The log shipping went down to less than 2 minutes and I went off to the SQL Social evening in London feeling quite pleased with myself. It was a great evening - fun, educational and thought-provoking. Thanks to Simon Sabin & co for laying that on, and thanks too to the guests for making the effort when they must have been pretty worn out after doing DevWeek all day first. The next morning I came down to earth with a bump: CPU still at 100%. WTF? I looked in the activity monitor but it was confusing because some sessions have been running for a long time so it's not a good guide what's using the CPU now. I tried the standard reports showing queries by CPU (average and total) but they only show the top 10 so they just show my big overnight archiving and data cleaning stuff. But the Profiler showed it was four queries used by our new website usage tracking system. Four simple indexes later the CPU was back where it should be: about 20% with occasional short spikes. So the moral is: even when you're convinced you've found the cause and fixed the problem, you HAVE to go back and confirm that the problem has gone. And, yes, I have checked the CPU again today and it's still looking sweet.

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  • Upgrade to 2008 R2

    - by DavidWimbush
    I don't like it, Carruthers. It's just too quiet. Well, I've done the pre-production server, the main live server and the Reporting/BI server with remarkably little trouble. Pre-production and live were rebuilds. I failed live over to our log shipping standby for the duration, which has a gotcha I blogged about before. When I failed back to the primary live server again, it was very quick to bring the databases online. I understand the databases don't actually get upgraded until you recover them but there was no noticable delay. It's gone from 2005 Workgroup - limited to 4GB of memory - to 2008 R2 Standard so it can now use nearly all of the 30GB in the server. It's soo much faster. The reporting/BI server I upgraded in situ. This took a while but, again, went smoothly. Just watch out, because the master database was left at compatibility level 90. Also the upgrade decided to use the reporting service's credentials for database access when running reports. It didn't preserve the existing credentials and I had to go into the Reporting Configuration Manager to put them back in. Make sure you know what credentials your server is using before you upgrade. All things considered, a fairly painless experience. Now I just have to upgrade and reset our log shipping standby server again!

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  • Log shipping and shrinking transaction logs

    - by DavidWimbush
    I just solved a problem that had me worried for a bit. I'm log shipping from three primary servers to a single secondary server, and the transaction log disk on the secondary server was getting very full. I established that several primary databases had unused space that resulted from big, one-off updates so I could shrink their logs. But would this action be log shipped and applied to the secondary database too? I thought probably not. And, more importantly, would it break log shipping? My secondary databases are in a Standby / Read Only state so I didn't think I could shrink their logs. I RTFMd, Googled, and asked on a Q&A site (not the evil one) but was none the wiser. So I was facing a monumental round of shrink, full backup, full secondary restore and re-start log shipping (which would leave us without a disaster recovery facility for the duration). Then I thought it might be worthwhile to take a non-essential database and just make absolutely sure a log shrink on the primary wouldn't ship over and occur on the secondary as well. So I did a DBCC SHRINKFILE and kept an eye on the secondary. Bingo! Log shipping didn't blink and the log on the secondary shrank too. I just love it when something turns out even better than I dared to hope. (And I guess this highlights something I need to learn about what activities are logged.)

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  • Developers are strange

    - by DavidWimbush
    Why do developers always use the GUI tools in SQL Server? I've always found this irritating and just vaguely assumed it's because they aren't familiar with SQL syntax. But when you think about it it, it's a genuine puzzle. Developers type code all day - really heavy code too like generics, lamda functions and extension methods. They (thankfully) scorn the Visual Studio stuff where you drag a table onto the class and it pastes in lots of code to query the table into a DataSet or something. But when they want to add a column to a table, without fail they dive into the graphical table designer. And half the time the script it generates does horrible things like copy the table to another one with the new column, delete the old table, and rename the new table. Which is fine if your users don't care about uptime. Is ALTER TABLE ADD <column definition> really that hard? I just don't get it.

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  • New SQL Down Under podcast episode: Bill Ramos

    - by DavidWimbush
    I thought Greg Lowe had stopped doing his excellent podcast a while back but every now and then I go and check (just in case). This time I found a new episode: http://www.sqldownunder.com/PreviousShows/tabid/98/Default.aspx. Great! As far as I can see, Greg just slipped this one out without any mention on his blog. I hope there are plenty more to come as there's no shortage of developments to discuss. It's funny to think that when I got into SQL Server, in 2000, one of the things I liked was that it only changed in occasional small increments. Really! This was a relief compared to keeping up with Visual Basic and Visual Studio (and .NET and C# and...). What happened? Did I miss a meeting? Still, I'm not complaining - there's no danger of getting bored!

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  • Unused Indexes Gotcha

    - by DavidWimbush
    I'm currently looking into dropping unused indexes to reduce unnecessary overhead and I came across a very good point in the excellent SQL Server MVP Deep Dives book that I haven't seen highlighted anywhere else. I was thinking it was simply a case of dropping indexes that didn't show as being used in DMV sys.dm_db_index_usage_stats (assuming a solid representative workload had been run since the last service start). But Rob Farley points out that the DMV only shows indexes whose pages have been read or updated. An index that isn't listed in the DMV might still be useful by providing metadata to the Query Optimizer and thus streamlining query plans. For example, if you have a query like this: select  au.author_name         , count(*) as books from    books b         inner join authors au on au.author_id = b.author_id group by au.author_name If you have a unique index on authors.author_name the Query Optimizer will realise that each author_id will have a different author_name so it can produce a plan that just counts the books by author_id and then adds the author name to each row in that small table. If you delete that index the query will have to join all the books with their authors and then apply the GROUP BY - a much more expensive query. So be cautious about dropping apparently unused unique indexes.

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  • Runaway version store in tempdb

    - by DavidWimbush
    Today was really a new one. I got back from a week off and found our main production server's tempdb had gone from its usual 200MB to 36GB. Ironically I spent Friday at the most excellent SQLBits VI and one of the sessions I attended was Christian Bolton talking about tempdb issues - including runaway tempdb databases. How just-in-time was that?! I looked into the file growth history and it looks like the problem started when my index maintenance job was chosen as the deadlock victim. (Funny how they almost make it sound like you've won something.) That left tempdb pretty big but for some reason it grew several more times. And since I'd left the file growth at the default 10% (aaargh!) the worse it got the worse it got. The last regrowth event was 2.6GB. Good job I've got Instant Initialization on. Since the Disk Usage report showed it was 99% unallocated I went into the Shrink Files dialogue which helpfully informed me the data file was 250MB.  I'm afraid I've got a life (allegedly) so I restarted the SQL Server service and then immediately ran a script to make the initial size bigger and change the file growth to a number of MB. The script complained that the size was smaller than the current size. Within seconds! WTF? Now I had to find out what was using so much of it. By using the DMV sys.dm_db_file_space_usage I found the problem was in the version store, and using the DMV sys.dm_db_task_space_usage and the Top Transactions by Age report I found that the culprit was a 3rd party database where I had turned on read_committed_snapshot and then not bothered to monitor things properly. Just because something has always worked before doesn't mean it will work in every future case. This application had an implicit transaction that had been running for over 2 hours.

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  • Upgrading from 2005 to R2

    - by DavidWimbush
    We're about to take the plunge and upgrade our servers from SQL 2005 to SQL 2008 R2. Real world accounts of people upgrading to R2 are a bit hard to find so I thought it might be useful to blog what happens. (I don't count marketing 'case studies' that just say stuff like "The process was effortless and the upgrade will pay for itself by the end the week.") We're using the database engine, Analysis Services and Reporting Services so upgrading by a major version number was looking a bit daunting. I wasn't expecting much trouble on the engine side of things but, as most of the action in 2008 and R2 appears to have been on the Reporting and BI front, I expected to have quite a bit of work to do. But our testing so far has been one nice surprise after another: The 2005 backups restore cleanly onto R2. R2's BI Studio upgraded the Reporting and Analysis Services solutions without any issues. The cubes all deployed and processed just fine. R2 BI Studio interacts fine with TFS 2008 version control. I'll blog some more as things develop.  

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  • SQL Server 2012 edition comparison details are published

    - by DavidWimbush
    Interesting stuff, particularly if you're doing BI. BISM tabular and Power View will not be in Standard Edition, only in the new - presumably more expensive - Business Intelligence Edition. That kind of makes sense as you need a fairly pricey edition of SharePoint to really get all the benefits, but it's a shame there won't be some kind of limited version in Standard Edition. And Always On will be in Standard Edition but limited to 2 nodes. I really expected Always On to be Enterprise-only so this is a great decision. It allows those of us working at a more modest scale to benefit and raises the fault tolerance of SQL Server as a product to a new level.Read all about it here: http://www.microsoft.com/sqlserver/en/us/future-editions/sql2012-editions.aspx

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  • I love it when a plan comes together

    - by DavidWimbush
    I'm currently working on an application so that our Marketing department can produce most of their own mailing lists without my having to get involved. It was all going well until I got stuck on the bit where the actual SQL query is generated but a rummage in Books Online revealed a very clean solution using some constructs that I had previously dismissed as pointless. Typically we want to email every customer who is in any of the following n groups. Experience shows that a group has the following definition: <people who have done A> [(AND <people who have done B>) | (OR <people who have done C>)] [APART FROM <people who have done D>] When doing these by hand I've been using INNER JOIN for the AND, UNION for the OR, and LEFT JOIN + WHERE D IS NULL for the APART FROM. This would produce two quite different queries: -- Old OR select  A.PersonID from  (   -- A   select  PersonID   from  ...   union  -- OR   -- C   select  PersonID   from  ...   ) AorC   left join  -- APART FROM   (   select  PersonID   from  ...   ) D on D.PersonID = AorC.PersonID where  D.PersonID is null -- Old AND select  distinct main.PersonID from  (   -- A   select  PersonID   from  ...   ) A   inner join  -- AND   (   -- B   select  PersonID   from  ...   ) B on B.PersonID = A.PersonID   left join  -- APART FROM   (   select  PersonID   from  ...   ) D on D.PersonID = A.PersonID where  D.PersonID is null But when I tried to write the code that can generate the SQL for any combination of those (along with all the variables controlling what each SELECT did and what was in all the optional bits of each WHERE clause) my brain started to hurt. Then I remembered reading about the (then new to me) keywords INTERSECT and EXCEPT. At the time I couldn't see what they added but I thought I would have a play and see if they might help. They were perfect for this. Here's the new query structure: -- The way forward select  PersonID from  (     (       (       -- A       select  PersonID       from  ...       )       union      -- OR        intersect  -- AND       (       -- B/C       select  PersonID       from  ...       )     )     except     (     -- D     select  PersonID     from  ...     )   ) x I can easily swap between between UNION and INTERSECT, and omit B, C, or D as necessary. Elegant, clean and readable - pick any 3! Sometimes it really pays to read the manual.

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  • R2 and Idera Idera SQL Safe (Freeware Edition)

    - by DavidWimbush
    Good news: the Freeware edition of Idera SQL Safe works on R2. You might not care but I certainly do. Here's why:  In September last year I started using Idera SQL Safe (the Freeware Edition) to get backup compression on my SQL 2005 servers. It seemed like a good idea at the time - it was free and my backups ran much faster and took up much less disk space. I really thought I'd actually scored a free lunch. Until they discontinued the product. I was thinking about what to do when I heard that R2 Standard would include native backup compression so I've just been keeping my fingers crossed since then. So I installed R2 Developer on my laptop, installed SQL Safe and kicked off a restore with it. No problem. Phew! Now I won't have to do a special, non-compressed backup and restore when we migrate.

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  • Finding rows that intersect with a date period

    - by DavidWimbush
    This one is mainly a personal reminder but I hope it helps somebody else too. Let's say you have a table that covers something like currency exchange rates with columns for the start and end dates of the period each rate was applicable. Now you need to list the rates that applied during the year 2009. For some reason this always fazes me and I have to work it out with a diagram. So here's the recipe so I never have to do that again: select  * from    ExchangeRate where   StartDate < '31-DEC-2009'         and EndDate > '01-JAN-2009'   That is all!

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  • Microsoft Business Intelligence Seminar 2011

    - by DavidWimbush
    I was lucky enough to attend the maiden presentation of this at Microsoft Reading yesterday. It was pretty gripping stuff not only because of what was said but also because of what could only be hinted at. Here's what I took away from the day. (Disclaimer: I'm not a BI guru, just a reasonably experienced BI developer, so I may have misunderstood or misinterpreted a few things. Particularly when so much of the talk was about the vision and subtle hints of what is coming. Please comment if you think I've got anything wrong. I'm also not going to even try to cover Master Data Services as I struggled to imagine how you would actually use it.) I was a bit worried when I learned that the whole day was going to be presented by one guy but Rafal Lukawiecki is a very engaging speaker. He's going to be presenting this about 20 times around the world over the coming months. If you get a chance to hear him speak, I say go for it. No doubt some of the hints will become clearer as Denali gets closer to RTM. Firstly, things are definitely happening in the SQL Server Reporting and BI world. Traditionally IT would build a data warehouse, then cubes on top of that, and then publish them in a structured and controlled way. But, just as with many IT projects in general, by the time it's finished the business has moved on and the system no longer meets their requirements. This not sustainable and something more agile is needed but there has to be some control. Apparently we're going to be hearing the catchphrase 'Balancing agility with control' a lot. More users want more access to more data. Can they define what they want? Of course not, but they'll recognise it when they see it. It's estimated that only 28% of potential BI users have meaningful access to the data they need, so there is a real pent-up demand. The answer looks like: give them some self-service tools so they can experiment and see what works, and then IT can help to support the results. It's estimated that 32% of Excel users are comfortable with its analysis tools such as pivot tables. It's the power user's preferred tool. Why fight it? That's why PowerPivot is an Excel add-in and that's why they released a Data Mining add-in for it as well. It does appear that the strategy is going to be to use Reporting Services (in SharePoint mode), PowerPivot, and possibly something new (smiles and hints but no details) to create reports and explore data. Everything will be published and managed in SharePoint which gives users the ability to mash-up, share and socialise what they've found out. SharePoint also gives IT tools to understand what people are looking at and where to concentrate effort. If PowerPivot report X becomes widely used, it's time to check that it shows what they think it does and perhaps get it a bit more under central control. There was more SharePoint detail that went slightly over my head regarding where Excel Services and Excel Web Application fit in, the differences between them, and the suggestion that it is likely they will one day become one (but not in the immediate future). That basic pattern is set to be expanded upon by further exploiting Vertipaq (the columnar indexing engine that enables PowerPivot to store and process a lot of data fast and in a small memory footprint) to provide scalability 'from the desktop to the data centre', and some yet to be detailed advances in 'frictionless deployment' (part of which is about making the difference between local and the cloud pretty much irrelevant). Excel looks like becoming Microsoft's primary BI client. It already has: the ability to consume cubes strong visualisation tools slicers (which are part of Excel not PowerPivot) a data mining add-in PowerPivot A major hurdle for self-service BI is presenting the data in a consumable format. You can't just give users PowerPivot and a server with a copy of the OLTP database(s). Building cubes is labour intensive and doesn't always give the user what they need. This is where the BI Semantic Model (BISM) comes in. I gather it's a layer of metadata you define that can combine multiple data sources (and types of data source) into a clear 'interface' that users can work with. It comes with a new query language called DAX. SSAS cubes are unlikely to go away overnight because, with their pre-calculated results, they are still the most efficient way to work with really big data sets. A few other random titbits that came up: Reporting Services is going to get some good new stuff in Denali. Keep an eye on www.projectbotticelli.com for the slides. You can also view last year's seminar sessions which covered a lot of the same ground as far as the overall strategy is concerned. They plan to add more material as Denali's features are publicly exposed. Check out the PASS keynote address for a showing of Yahoo's SQL BI servers. Apparently they wheeled the rack out on stage still plugged in and running! Check out the Excel 2010 Data Mining Add-Ins. 32 bit only at present but 64 bit is on the way. There are lots of data sets, many of them free, at the Windows Azure Marketplace Data Market (where you can also get ESRI shape files). If you haven't already seen it, have a look at the Silverlight Pivot Viewer (http://weblogs.asp.net/scottgu/archive/2010/06/29/silverlight-pivotviewer-now-available.aspx). The Bing Maps Data Connector is worth a look if you're into spatial stuff (http://www.bing.com/community/site_blogs/b/maps/archive/2010/07/13/data-connector-sql-server-2008-spatial-amp-bing-maps.aspx).  

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  • R2 download site is looking good

    - by DavidWimbush
    The MSDN downloads for R2 appeared as promised yesterday. Congratulations to everyone on the SQL team. I must have got one of the first downloads of the Developer Edition and it was nice and fast. I've just downloaded Standard Edition and it's still nearly as fast. Nice. I'm guessing they aren't using GUIDs for the clustered indexes this time! ;)

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  • Slow in the app, fast in SSMS

    - by DavidWimbush
    Users complain about a timeout but when you run the exact same query in SSMS it runs in a flash. Sounds familiar? I've been baffled by this before. I worked out that I was getting a different query plan in SSMS because of different SET OPTIONS but, having dealt with that, I was then stuck with parameter sniffing as the cause of the timeout. I've read about that but still didn't really understand how to fix it. Erland Sommarskorg has published an excellent article (http://www.sommarskog.se/query-plan-mysteries.html) in which he clearly explains what's going on and provides tools and techniques to fix it. Highly recommended reading. Thanks, Erland.

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  • Fun with upgrading and BCP

    - by DavidWimbush
    I just had trouble with using BCP out via xp_cmdshell. Probably serves me right but that's a different issue. I got a strange error message 'Unable to resolve column level collations' which turned out to be a bit misleading. I wasted some time comparing the collations of the the server, the database and all the columns in the query. I got so desperate that I even read the Books Online article. Still no joy but then I tried the interweb. It turns out that calling bcp without qualifying it with a path causes Windows to search the folders listed in the Path environment variable - in that order - and execute the first version of BCP it can find. But when you do an in-place version upgrade, the new paths are added on the end of the Path variable so you don't get the latest version of BCP by default. To check which version you're getting execute bcp -v at the command line. The version number will correspond to SQL Server version numbering (eg. 10.50.n = 2008 R2). To examine and/or edit the Path variable, right-click on My Computer, select Properties, go to the Advanced tab and click on the Environment Variables button. If you change the variable you'll have to restart the SQL Server service before it takes effect.

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  • Copying logins to another server

    - by DavidWimbush
    I'm busy setting up a new server to replace our main live server and part of that is to get the logins copied over. The database users will come over when I restore the databases but I wanted to get the logins they relate to, with the same SIDs, passwords and other properties as they have on the current server. In fact I don't even know the passwords for the logins created by our Sage accounting package - apparently they are generated by the setup using a number of ingredients unique to each installation. I did some Googling and fount this KB article: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/918992/, which more or less did the trick. It produces a set of CREATE LOGIN statements with the SIDs and hashed passwords. But it didn't include the default language, which can subtly or dramatically alter the behaviour of date-related SQL. So I added that bit and you can help yourself here.

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  • Failing report subscriptions

    - by DavidWimbush
    We had an interesting problem while I was on holiday. (Why doesn't this stuff ever happen when I'm there?) The sysadmin upgraded our Exchange server to Exchange 2010 and everone's subscriptions stopped. My Subscriptions showed an error message saying that the email address of one of the recipients is invalid. When you create a subscription, Reporting puts your Windows user name into the To field and most users have no permissions to edit it. By default, Reporting leaves it up to exchange to resolve that into an email address. This only works if Exchange is set up to translate aliases or 'short names' into email addresses. It turns out this leaves Exchange open to being used as a relay so it is disabled out of the box. You now have three options: Open up Exchange. That would be bad. Give all Reporting users the ability to edit the To field in a subscription. a) They shouldn't have to, it should just work. b) They don't really have any business subscribing anyone but themselves. Fix the report server to add the domain. This looks like the right choice and it works for us. See below for details. Pre-requisites: A single email domain name. A clear relationship between the Windows user name and the email address. eg. If the user name is joebloggs, then [email protected] needs to be the email address or an alias of it. Warning: Saving changes to the rsreportserver.config file will restart the Report Server service which effectively takes Reporting down for around 30 seconds. Time your action accordingly. Edit the file rsreportserver.config (most probably in the folder ..\Program Files[ (x86)]\Microsoft SQL Server\MSRS10_50[.instancename]\Reporting Services\ReportServer). There's a setting called DefaultHostName which is empty by default. Enter your email domain name without the leading '@'. Save the file. This domain name will be appended to any destination addresses that don't have a domain name of their own.

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