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  • OT: Fixing choppy video playback on OS X

    - by terrencebarr
    This is a bit off-topic but I wanted to share because it seems a lot of people are running into issues with choppy video playback and stutter on Mac OS X. I am using a Mac Mini with Snow Leopard (10.6.8) as a home media center and it has worked great in the past, playing back music and videos from multiple sources (web, quicktime, VLC, EyeTV). A few weeks ago the video playback from all my sources started to become choppy, to stutter, and often the picture would hang for seconds at a time. Totally unusable. Drove me nuts for two weeks. After much research and trial-and-error it turns out the problem was an outdated Flash Player which seems to have messed up the video pipeline for the entire system. The short is, I updated the Flash Player to version 11 directly from the Adobe web site, rebooted the Mac Mini, and all is well again! Judging from the various posts across the web, video playback appears to be a fairly widespread problem for Mac users and I hope this helps some of you out there! And I can’t wait to get rid of Flash altogether – I can’t remember the times it has crashed my browser, hung my system, and screwed up things. Thanks Adobe ;-( Cheers, – Terrence Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: Adobe Flash, Mac OS X

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  • Xcode 4 and cocos2D 1.0.0 beta Uncategorized errors and Info.plist doesn't exist

    - by badben
    I just installed the xcode 4 sdk and the cocos2d 1.0.0 beta template. I just created a new project with the cocos2d template. But when I build I got these errors : (for information my previous projects developed with xcode 3 have the same problem) warning: couldn't add 'com.apple.XcodeGenerated' tag to '/Users/Benoit/Library/Developer/Xcode/DerivedData/xcode4-bswxazfuwbsguiasyatbtlmvbpps/Build/Intermediates/xcode4.build': Error Domain=NSPOSIXErrorDomain Code=2 UserInfo=0x201dde680 "The operation couldn’t be completed. No such file or directory" error: unable to create '/Users/Benoit/Library/Developer/Xcode/DerivedData/xcode4-bswxazfuwbsguiasyatbtlmvbpps/Build/Intermediates' (Permission denied) error: unable to create '/Users/Benoit/Library/Developer/Xcode/DerivedData/xcode4-bswxazfuwbsguiasyatbtlmvbpps/Build/Products' (Permission denied) Unable to create directory /Users/Benoit/Library/Developer/Xcode/DerivedData/xcode4-bswxazfuwbsguiasyatbtlmvbpps/Build/Intermediates/xcode4.build/Debug-iphonesimulator/xcode4.build/Objects-normal/i386 Unable to create directory /Users/Benoit/Library/Developer/Xcode/DerivedData/xcode4-bswxazfuwbsguiasyatbtlmvbpps/Build/PrecompiledHeaders/Prefix-dflnzjtztxdgjwhistrvvjxetfrg Unable to create directory /Users/Benoit/Library/Developer/Xcode/DerivedData/xcode4-bswxazfuwbsguiasyatbtlmvbpps/Build/Intermediates/xcode4.build/Debug-iphonesimulator/xcode4.build Unable to create directory /Users/Benoit/Library/Developer/Xcode/DerivedData/xcode4-bswxazfuwbsguiasyatbtlmvbpps/Build/Intermediates/xcode4.build/Debug-iphonesimulator/xcode4.build Unable to create directory /Users/Benoit/Library/Developer/Xcode/DerivedData/xcode4-bswxazfuwbsguiasyatbtlmvbpps/Build/Intermediates/xcode4.build/Debug-iphonesimulator/xcode4.build Unable to create directory /Users/Benoit/Library/Developer/Xcode/DerivedData/xcode4-bswxazfuwbsguiasyatbtlmvbpps/Build/Intermediates/xcode4.build/Debug-iphonesimulator/xcode4.build Unable to create directory /Users/Benoit/Library/Developer/Xcode/DerivedData/xcode4-bswxazfuwbsguiasyatbtlmvbpps/Build/PrecompiledHeaders/Prefix-fqemzerugrwojibbegzkffljkxqs Unable to create directory /Users/Benoit/Library/Developer/Xcode/DerivedData/xcode4-bswxazfuwbsguiasyatbtlmvbpps/Build/Intermediates/xcode4.build/Debug-iphonesimulator/xcode4.build Unable to create directory /Users/Benoit/Library/Developer/Xcode/DerivedData/xcode4-bswxazfuwbsguiasyatbtlmvbpps/Index/PrecompiledHeaders/Prefix-dbtcglhksokwygezixirqkgfipsr_ast Unable to create directory /Users/Benoit/Library/Developer/Xcode/DerivedData/xcode4-bswxazfuwbsguiasyatbtlmvbpps/Index/PrecompiledHeaders/Prefix-gdirtpasdqzasnclnkzguimarjpd_ast error: couldn't create directory /Users/Benoit/Library/Developer/Xcode/DerivedData/xcode4-bswxazfuwbsguiasyatbtlmvbpps/Build/Products/Debug-iphonesimulator/xcode4.app: Permission denied error: couldn't create directory /Users/Benoit/Library/Developer/Xcode/DerivedData/xcode4-bswxazfuwbsguiasyatbtlmvbpps/Build/Products/Debug-iphonesimulator/xcode4.app: Permission denied The file “Info.plist” doesn’t exist. Please help !!

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  • SQLBeat Podcast – Episode 5 – Kevin Kline Talks With Me About SQL, Professional Development and Book Writin’

    - by SQLBeat
    I thought I would be a ball of intimated nerves when Kevin gladly agreed to speak with me on the podcast this past weekend.  After all, he is Kevin Kline of SQL in a Nutshell fame! As it turned out,  we had a comfortable and enlightening conversation on Apple MacBooks (is that what they are called?), our beginnings in the indistry, the Deep South, health care intiatives and 286′s. I almost pulled the plug when Kevin started down the Oracle path though, and for a moment he looked at me as if I was serious. As always on this podcast, it is all in good fun. The picture is of Kevin and I ( my shirt is mauve not pink by the way) at the after party for SQL Saturday 151 in Orlando, FL where he also did a Pre-Con to a sold out crowd of enthusiastic DBAs. I know they were enthusiastic even though I was not there because one of the attendees was a friend of mine who went on and on and on about the content, kind of like I am doing here.  So I will just stop that and let you proceed to listen. As always, I hope you enjoy and any feedback on this or future episodes is always welcome. Download the MP3

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  • Red Gate Coder interviews: Alex Davies

    - by Michael Williamson
    Alex Davies has been a software engineer at Red Gate since graduating from university, and is currently busy working on .NET Demon. We talked about tackling parallel programming with his actors framework, a scientific approach to debugging, and how JavaScript is going to affect the programming languages we use in years to come. So, if we start at the start, how did you get started in programming? When I was seven or eight, I was given a BBC Micro for Christmas. I had asked for a Game Boy, but my dad thought it would be better to give me a proper computer. For a year or so, I only played games on it, but then I found the user guide for writing programs in it. I gradually started doing more stuff on it and found it fun. I liked creating. As I went into senior school I continued to write stuff on there, trying to write games that weren’t very good. I got a real computer when I was fourteen and found ways to write BASIC on it. Visual Basic to start with, and then something more interesting than that. How did you learn to program? Was there someone helping you out? Absolutely not! I learnt out of a book, or by experimenting. I remember the first time I found a loop, I was like “Oh my God! I don’t have to write out the same line over and over and over again any more. It’s amazing!” When did you think this might be something that you actually wanted to do as a career? For a long time, I thought it wasn’t something that you would do as a career, because it was too much fun to be a career. I thought I’d do chemistry at university and some kind of career based on chemical engineering. And then I went to a careers fair at school when I was seventeen or eighteen, and it just didn’t interest me whatsoever. I thought “I could be a programmer, and there’s loads of money there, and I’m good at it, and it’s fun”, but also that I shouldn’t spoil my hobby. Now I don’t really program in my spare time any more, which is a bit of a shame, but I program all the rest of the time, so I can live with it. Do you think you learnt much about programming at university? Yes, definitely! I went into university knowing how to make computers do anything I wanted them to do. However, I didn’t have the language to talk about algorithms, so the algorithms course in my first year was massively important. Learning other language paradigms like functional programming was really good for breadth of understanding. Functional programming influences normal programming through design rather than actually using it all the time. I draw inspiration from it to write imperative programs which I think is actually becoming really fashionable now, but I’ve been doing it for ages. I did it first! There were also some courses on really odd programming languages, a bit of Prolog, a little bit of C. Having a little bit of each of those is something that I would have never done on my own, so it was important. And then there are knowledge-based courses which are about not programming itself but things that have been programmed like TCP. Those are really important for examples for how to approach things. Did you do any internships while you were at university? Yeah, I spent both of my summers at the same company. I thought I could code well before I went there. Looking back at the crap that I produced, it was only surpassed in its crappiness by all of the other code already in that company. I’m so much better at writing nice code now than I used to be back then. Was there just not a culture of looking after your code? There was, they just didn’t hire people for their abilities in that area. They hired people for raw IQ. The first indicator of it going wrong was that they didn’t have any computer scientists, which is a bit odd in a programming company. But even beyond that they didn’t have people who learnt architecture from anyone else. Most of them had started straight out of university, so never really had experience or mentors to learn from. There wasn’t the experience to draw from to teach each other. In the second half of my second internship, I was being given tasks like looking at new technologies and teaching people stuff. Interns shouldn’t be teaching people how to do their jobs! All interns are going to have little nuggets of things that you don’t know about, but they shouldn’t consistently be the ones who know the most. It’s not a good environment to learn. I was going to ask how you found working with people who were more experienced than you… When I reached Red Gate, I found some people who were more experienced programmers than me, and that was difficult. I’ve been coding since I was tiny. At university there were people who were cleverer than me, but there weren’t very many who were more experienced programmers than me. During my internship, I didn’t find anyone who I classed as being a noticeably more experienced programmer than me. So, it was a shock to the system to have valid criticisms rather than just formatting criticisms. However, Red Gate’s not so big on the actual code review, at least it wasn’t when I started. We did an entire product release and then somebody looked over all of the UI of that product which I’d written and say what they didn’t like. By that point, it was way too late and I’d disagree with them. Do you think the lack of code reviews was a bad thing? I think if there’s going to be any oversight of new people, then it should be continuous rather than chunky. For me I don’t mind too much, I could go out and get oversight if I wanted it, and in those situations I felt comfortable without it. If I was managing the new person, then maybe I’d be keener on oversight and then the right way to do it is continuously and in very, very small chunks. Have you had any significant projects you’ve worked on outside of a job? When I was a teenager I wrote all sorts of stuff. I used to write games, I derived how to do isomorphic projections myself once. I didn’t know what the word was so I couldn’t Google for it, so I worked it out myself. It was horrifically complicated. But it sort of tailed off when I started at university, and is now basically zero. If I do side-projects now, they tend to be work-related side projects like my actors framework, NAct, which I started in a down tools week. Could you explain a little more about NAct? It is a little C# framework for writing parallel code more easily. Parallel programming is difficult when you need to write to shared data. Sometimes parallel programming is easy because you don’t need to write to shared data. When you do need to access shared data, you could just have your threads pile in and do their work, but then you would screw up the data because the threads would trample on each other’s toes. You could lock, but locks are really dangerous if you’re using more than one of them. You get interactions like deadlocks, and that’s just nasty. Actors instead allows you to say this piece of data belongs to this thread of execution, and nobody else can read it. If you want to read it, then ask that thread of execution for a piece of it by sending a message, and it will send the data back by a message. And that avoids deadlocks as long as you follow some obvious rules about not making your actors sit around waiting for other actors to do something. There are lots of ways to write actors, NAct allows you to do it as if it was method calls on other objects, which means you get all the strong type-safety that C# programmers like. Do you think that this is suitable for the majority of parallel programming, or do you think it’s only suitable for specific cases? It’s suitable for most difficult parallel programming. If you’ve just got a hundred web requests which are all independent of each other, then I wouldn’t bother because it’s easier to just spin them up in separate threads and they can proceed independently of each other. But where you’ve got difficult parallel programming, where you’ve got multiple threads accessing multiple bits of data in multiple ways at different times, then actors is at least as good as all other ways, and is, I reckon, easier to think about. When you’re using actors, you presumably still have to write your code in a different way from you would otherwise using single-threaded code. You can’t use actors with any methods that have return types, because you’re not allowed to call into another actor and wait for it. If you want to get a piece of data out of another actor, then you’ve got to use tasks so that you can use “async” and “await” to await asynchronously for it. But other than that, you can still stick things in classes so it’s not too different really. Rather than having thousands of objects with mutable state, you can use component-orientated design, where there are only a few mutable classes which each have a small number of instances. Then there can be thousands of immutable objects. If you tend to do that anyway, then actors isn’t much of a jump. If I’ve already built my system without any parallelism, how hard is it to add actors to exploit all eight cores on my desktop? Usually pretty easy. If you can identify even one boundary where things look like messages and you have components where some objects live on one side and these other objects live on the other side, then you can have a granddaddy object on one side be an actor and it will parallelise as it goes across that boundary. Not too difficult. If we do get 1000-core desktop PCs, do you think actors will scale up? It’s hard. There are always in the order of twenty to fifty actors in my whole program because I tend to write each component as actors, and I tend to have one instance of each component. So this won’t scale to a thousand cores. What you can do is write data structures out of actors. I use dictionaries all over the place, and if you need a dictionary that is going to be accessed concurrently, then you could build one of those out of actors in no time. You can use queuing to marshal requests between different slices of the dictionary which are living on different threads. So it’s like a distributed hash table but all of the chunks of it are on the same machine. That means that each of these thousand processors has cached one small piece of the dictionary. I reckon it wouldn’t be too big a leap to start doing proper parallelism. Do you think it helps if actors get baked into the language, similarly to Erlang? Erlang is excellent in that it has thread-local garbage collection. C# doesn’t, so there’s a limit to how well C# actors can possibly scale because there’s a single garbage collected heap shared between all of them. When you do a global garbage collection, you’ve got to stop all of the actors, which is seriously expensive, whereas in Erlang garbage collections happen per-actor, so they’re insanely cheap. However, Erlang deviated from all the sensible language design that people have used recently and has just come up with crazy stuff. You can definitely retrofit thread-local garbage collection to .NET, and then it’s quite well-suited to support actors, even if it’s not baked into the language. Speaking of language design, do you have a favourite programming language? I’ll choose a language which I’ve never written before. I like the idea of Scala. It sounds like C#, only with some of the niggles gone. I enjoy writing static types. It means you don’t have to writing tests so much. When you say it doesn’t have some of the niggles? C# doesn’t allow the use of a property as a method group. It doesn’t have Scala case classes, or sum types, where you can do a switch statement and the compiler checks that you’ve checked all the cases, which is really useful in functional-style programming. Pattern-matching, in other words. That’s actually the major niggle. C# is pretty good, and I’m quite happy with C#. And what about going even further with the type system to remove the need for tests to something like Haskell? Or is that a step too far? I’m quite a pragmatist, I don’t think I could deal with trying to write big systems in languages with too few other users, especially when learning how to structure things. I just don’t know anyone who can teach me, and the Internet won’t teach me. That’s the main reason I wouldn’t use it. If I turned up at a company that writes big systems in Haskell, I would have no objection to that, but I wouldn’t instigate it. What about things in C#? For instance, there’s contracts in C#, so you can try to statically verify a bit more about your code. Do you think that’s useful, or just not worthwhile? I’ve not really tried it. My hunch is that it needs to be built into the language and be quite mathematical for it to work in real life, and that doesn’t seem to have ended up true for C# contracts. I don’t think anyone who’s tried them thinks they’re any good. I might be wrong. On a slightly different note, how do you like to debug code? I think I’m quite an odd debugger. I use guesswork extremely rarely, especially if something seems quite difficult to debug. I’ve been bitten spending hours and hours on guesswork and not being scientific about debugging in the past, so now I’m scientific to a fault. What I want is to see the bug happening in the debugger, to step through the bug happening. To watch the program going from a valid state to an invalid state. When there’s a bug and I can’t work out why it’s happening, I try to find some piece of evidence which places the bug in one section of the code. From that experiment, I binary chop on the possible causes of the bug. I suppose that means binary chopping on places in the code, or binary chopping on a stage through a processing cycle. Basically, I’m very stupid about how I debug. I won’t make any guesses, I won’t use any intuition, I will only identify the experiment that’s going to binary chop most effectively and repeat rather than trying to guess anything. I suppose it’s quite top-down. Is most of the time then spent in the debugger? Absolutely, if at all possible I will never debug using print statements or logs. I don’t really hold much stock in outputting logs. If there’s any bug which can be reproduced locally, I’d rather do it in the debugger than outputting logs. And with SmartAssembly error reporting, there’s not a lot that can’t be either observed in an error report and just fixed, or reproduced locally. And in those other situations, maybe I’ll use logs. But I hate using logs. You stare at the log, trying to guess what’s going on, and that’s exactly what I don’t like doing. You have to just look at it and see does this look right or wrong. We’ve covered how you get to grip with bugs. How do you get to grips with an entire codebase? I watch it in the debugger. I find little bugs and then try to fix them, and mostly do it by watching them in the debugger and gradually getting an understanding of how the code works using my process of binary chopping. I have to do a lot of reading and watching code to choose where my slicing-in-half experiment is going to be. The last time I did it was SmartAssembly. The old code was a complete mess, but at least it did things top to bottom. There wasn’t too much of some of the big abstractions where flow of control goes all over the place, into a base class and back again. Code’s really hard to understand when that happens. So I like to choose a little bug and try to fix it, and choose a bigger bug and try to fix it. Definitely learn by doing. I want to always have an aim so that I get a little achievement after every few hours of debugging. Once I’ve learnt the codebase I might be able to fix all the bugs in an hour, but I’d rather be using them as an aim while I’m learning the codebase. If I was a maintainer of a codebase, what should I do to make it as easy as possible for you to understand? Keep distinct concepts in different places. And name your stuff so that it’s obvious which concepts live there. You shouldn’t have some variable that gets set miles up the top of somewhere, and then is read miles down to choose some later behaviour. I’m talking from a very much SmartAssembly point of view because the old SmartAssembly codebase had tons and tons of these things, where it would read some property of the code and then deal with it later. Just thousands of variables in scope. Loads of things to think about. If you can keep concepts separate, then it aids me in my process of fixing bugs one at a time, because each bug is going to more or less be understandable in the one place where it is. And what about tests? Do you think they help at all? I’ve never had the opportunity to learn a codebase which has had tests, I don’t know what it’s like! What about when you’re actually developing? How useful do you find tests in finding bugs or regressions? Finding regressions, absolutely. Running bits of code that would be quite hard to run otherwise, definitely. It doesn’t happen very often that a test finds a bug in the first place. I don’t really buy nebulous promises like tests being a good way to think about the spec of the code. My thinking goes something like “This code works at the moment, great, ship it! Ah, there’s a way that this code doesn’t work. Okay, write a test, demonstrate that it doesn’t work, fix it, use the test to demonstrate that it’s now fixed, and keep the test for future regressions.” The most valuable tests are for bugs that have actually happened at some point, because bugs that have actually happened at some point, despite the fact that you think you’ve fixed them, are way more likely to appear again than new bugs are. Does that mean that when you write your code the first time, there are no tests? Often. The chance of there being a bug in a new feature is relatively unaffected by whether I’ve written a test for that new feature because I’m not good enough at writing tests to think of bugs that I would have written into the code. So not writing regression tests for all of your code hasn’t affected you too badly? There are different kinds of features. Some of them just always work, and are just not flaky, they just continue working whatever you throw at them. Maybe because the type-checker is particularly effective around them. Writing tests for those features which just tend to always work is a waste of time. And because it’s a waste of time I’ll tend to wait until a feature has demonstrated its flakiness by having bugs in it before I start trying to test it. You can get a feel for whether it’s going to be flaky code as you’re writing it. I try to write it to make it not flaky, but there are some things that are just inherently flaky. And very occasionally, I’ll think “this is going to be flaky” as I’m writing, and then maybe do a test, but not most of the time. How do you think your programming style has changed over time? I’ve got clearer about what the right way of doing things is. I used to flip-flop a lot between different ideas. Five years ago I came up with some really good ideas and some really terrible ideas. All of them seemed great when I thought of them, but they were quite diverse ideas, whereas now I have a smaller set of reliable ideas that are actually good for structuring code. So my code is probably more similar to itself than it used to be back in the day, when I was trying stuff out. I’ve got more disciplined about encapsulation, I think. There are operational things like I use actors more now than I used to, and that forces me to use immutability more than I used to. The first code that I wrote in Red Gate was the memory profiler UI, and that was an actor, I just didn’t know the name of it at the time. I don’t really use object-orientation. By object-orientation, I mean having n objects of the same type which are mutable. I want a constant number of objects that are mutable, and they should be different types. I stick stuff in dictionaries and then have one thing that owns the dictionary and puts stuff in and out of it. That’s definitely a pattern that I’ve seen recently. I think maybe I’m doing functional programming. Possibly. It’s plausible. If you had to summarise the essence of programming in a pithy sentence, how would you do it? Programming is the form of art that, without losing any of the beauty of architecture or fine art, allows you to produce things that people love and you make money from. So you think it’s an art rather than a science? It’s a little bit of engineering, a smidgeon of maths, but it’s not science. Like architecture, programming is on that boundary between art and engineering. If you want to do it really nicely, it’s mostly art. You can get away with doing architecture and programming entirely by having a good engineering mind, but you’re not going to produce anything nice. You’re not going to have joy doing it if you’re an engineering mind. Architects who are just engineering minds are not going to enjoy their job. I suppose engineering is the foundation on which you build the art. Exactly. How do you think programming is going to change over the next ten years? There will be an unfortunate shift towards dynamically-typed languages, because of JavaScript. JavaScript has an unfair advantage. JavaScript’s unfair advantage will cause more people to be exposed to dynamically-typed languages, which means other dynamically-typed languages crop up and the best features go into dynamically-typed languages. Then people conflate the good features with the fact that it’s dynamically-typed, and more investment goes into dynamically-typed languages. They end up better, so people use them. What about the idea of compiling other languages, possibly statically-typed, to JavaScript? It’s a reasonable idea. I would like to do it, but I don’t think enough people in the world are going to do it to make it pick up. The hordes of beginners are the lifeblood of a language community. They are what makes there be good tools and what makes there be vibrant community websites. And any particular thing which is the same as JavaScript only with extra stuff added to it, although it might be technically great, is not going to have the hordes of beginners. JavaScript is always to be quickest and easiest way for a beginner to start programming in the browser. And dynamically-typed languages are great for beginners. Compilers are pretty scary and beginners don’t write big code. And having your errors come up in the same place, whether they’re statically checkable errors or not, is quite nice for a beginner. If someone asked me to teach them some programming, I’d teach them JavaScript. If dynamically-typed languages are great for beginners, when do you think the benefits of static typing start to kick in? The value of having a statically typed program is in the tools that rely on the static types to produce a smooth IDE experience rather than actually telling me my compile errors. And only once you’re experienced enough a programmer that having a really smooth IDE experience makes a blind bit of difference, does static typing make a blind bit of difference. So it’s not really about size of codebase. If I go and write up a tiny program, I’m still going to get value out of writing it in C# using ReSharper because I’m experienced with C# and ReSharper enough to be able to write code five times faster if I have that help. Any other visions of the future? Nobody’s going to use actors. Because everyone’s going to be running on single-core VMs connected over network-ready protocols like JSON over HTTP. So, parallelism within one operating system is going to die. But until then, you should use actors. More Red Gater Coder interviews

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  • Diagnose PC Hardware Problems with an Ubuntu Live CD

    - by Trevor Bekolay
    So your PC randomly shuts down or gives you the blue screen of death, but you can’t figure out what’s wrong. The problem could be bad memory or hardware related, and thankfully the Ubuntu Live CD has some tools to help you figure it out. Test your RAM with memtest86+ RAM problems are difficult to diagnose—they can range from annoying program crashes, or crippling reboot loops. Even if you’re not having problems, when you install new RAM it’s a good idea to thoroughly test it. The Ubuntu Live CD includes a tool called Memtest86+ that will do just that—test your computer’s RAM! Unlike many of the Live CD tools that we’ve looked at so far, Memtest86+ has to be run outside of a graphical Ubuntu session. Fortunately, it only takes a few keystrokes. Note: If you used UNetbootin to create an Ubuntu flash drive, then memtest86+ will not be available. We recommend using the Universal USB Installer from Pendrivelinux instead (persistence is possible with Universal USB Installer, but not mandatory). Boot up your computer with a Ubuntu Live CD or USB drive. You will be greeted with this screen: Use the down arrow key to select the Test memory option and hit Enter. Memtest86+ will immediately start testing your RAM. If you suspect that a certain part of memory is the problem, you can select certain portions of memory by pressing “c” and changing that option. You can also select specific tests to run. However, the default settings of Memtest86+ will exhaustively test your memory, so we recommend leaving the settings alone. Memtest86+ will run a variety of tests that can take some time to complete, so start it running before you go to bed to give it adequate time. Test your CPU with cpuburn Random shutdowns – especially when doing computationally intensive tasks – can be a sign of a faulty CPU, power supply, or cooling system. A utility called cpuburn can help you determine if one of these pieces of hardware is the problem. Note: cpuburn is designed to stress test your computer – it will run it fast and cause the CPU to heat up, which may exacerbate small problems that otherwise would be minor. It is a powerful diagnostic tool, but should be used with caution. Boot up your computer with a Ubuntu Live CD or USB drive, and choose to run Ubuntu from the CD or USB drive. When the desktop environment loads up, open the Synaptic Package Manager by clicking on the System menu in the top-left of the screen, then selecting Administration, and then Synaptic Package Manager. Cpuburn is in the universe repository. To enable the universe repository, click on Settings in the menu at the top, and then Repositories. Add a checkmark in the box labeled “Community-maintained Open Source software (universe)”. Click close. In the main Synaptic window, click the Reload button. After the package list has reloaded and the search index has been rebuilt, enter “cpuburn” in the Quick search text box. Click the checkbox in the left column, and select Mark for Installation. Click the Apply button near the top of the window. As cpuburn installs, it will caution you about the possible dangers of its use. Assuming you wish to take the risk (and if your computer is randomly restarting constantly, it’s probably worth it), open a terminal window by clicking on the Applications menu in the top-left of the screen and then selection Applications > Terminal. Cpuburn includes a number of tools to test different types of CPUs. If your CPU is more than six years old, see the full list; for modern AMD CPUs, use the terminal command burnK7 and for modern Intel processors, use the terminal command burnP6 Our processor is an Intel, so we ran burnP6. Once it started up, it immediately pushed the CPU up to 99.7% total usage, according to the Linux utility “top”. If your computer is having a CPU, power supply, or cooling problem, then your computer is likely to shutdown within ten or fifteen minutes. Because of the strain this program puts on your computer, we don’t recommend leaving it running overnight – if there’s a problem, it should crop up relatively quickly. Cpuburn’s tools, including burnP6, have no interface; once they start running, they will start driving your CPU until you stop them. To stop a program like burnP6, press Ctrl+C in the terminal window that is running the program. Conclusion The Ubuntu Live CD provides two great testing tools to diagnose a tricky computer problem, or to stress test a new computer. While they are advanced tools that should be used with caution, they’re extremely useful and easy enough that anyone can use them. Similar Articles Productive Geek Tips Reset Your Ubuntu Password Easily from the Live CDCreate a Persistent Bootable Ubuntu USB Flash DriveAdding extra Repositories on UbuntuHow to Share folders with your Ubuntu Virtual Machine (guest)Building a New Computer – Part 3: Setting it Up TouchFreeze Alternative in AutoHotkey The Icy Undertow Desktop Windows Home Server – Backup to LAN The Clear & Clean Desktop Use This Bookmarklet to Easily Get Albums Use AutoHotkey to Assign a Hotkey to a Specific Window Latest Software Reviews Tinyhacker Random Tips DVDFab 6 Revo Uninstaller Pro Registry Mechanic 9 for Windows PC Tools Internet Security Suite 2010 Have Fun Editing Photo Editing with Citrify Outlook Connector Upgrade Error Gadfly is a cool Twitter/Silverlight app Enable DreamScene in Windows 7 Microsoft’s “How Do I ?” Videos Home Networks – How do they look like & the problems they cause

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  • Compress Large Video Files with DivX / Xvid and AutoGK

    - by DigitalGeekery
    Have you ever recorded home video on a camcorder only to find the video size is enormous? What if you wanted to share a video clip on YouTube or another video sharing site, but the file size was bigger than the maximum upload size? Today we’ll look at a way to compress certain video files, such as MPEG and AVI, with Auto Gordian Knot (AutoGK). AutoGK is a free application that runs on Windows. It supports Mpeg1, Mpeg2, Transport Streams, Vobs, and virtually any codec used for an .AVI file. AutoGK will accept as input the following file types: MPG, MPEG, VOB, VRO, M2V, DAT, IFO, TS, TP, TRP, M2T, and AVI. Files are output as .AVI files and are converted using the DivX or XviD codecs. Installing and Using AutoGK Download and install AutoGK (link below) Open the AutoGK. You’ll need to navigate a few wizard screens, but you can just accept the defaults.   Choose your video file by clicking on the folder to the right of the Input file text box.   Browse for and select your video file and click “Open.”   For this example, we’ll be working with an .AVI file that’s 167MB in size.   The output file is copied into the same directory as the input file by default, but you can change this if you choose. If the input file is also .AVI, AutoGK will append an _agk to the output file so that the original is not overwritten. Next, you’ll see any audio tracks listed. You can unselect the check box if you’d like to remove the audio track. You can choose one of the Predefined size options… Or, select a Custom size in MB or Target Quality in percentage. For our example, we’ll be compressing our 167MB file to 35MB. Click on Advanced Settings. Here you can choose your codec, if you have a preference, as well as output resolution and output audio. If you’d like to use the DivX codec, you’ll need to download and install it separately. (See link below) Typically you’ll want to keep the defaults. Click “OK.” Now you’re ready to add your file conversion job to the Job queue. Click Add Job to add it to the queue. You can add multiple files conversions to the job queue and  convert them in one batch. Click Start to begin the conversion process. The process will begin. You’ll be able to see the progress in the Log window on the bottom left. When the conversion is complete you’ll see a “Job finished” and the total time in the log window.   Check your output file to see it’s compressed size. Test your video just to make sure the output quality is satisfactory.   Note:  Conversion times can vary greatly depending on the size of the file and your computer hardware. Files that are several GBs in size may take several hours to compress. AutoGK is no longer being actively developed but is still a wonderful DivX/XviD conversion tool. It can also be used to compress and convert non-copy protected DVDs. Downloads AutoGordianKnot DivX (optional) Similar Articles Productive Geek Tips Use Your Mac Mini as a Media Server Part 2Make Disk Cleanup Compress Older(or Newer) Files on XPMysticgeek Blog: Exclusive Look Inside Vreel – Including Interview With Vreel Founder!Friday Fun: Watch HD Video Content with MeevidConvert a DVD Movie Directly to AVI with FairUse Wizard 2.9 TouchFreeze Alternative in AutoHotkey The Icy Undertow Desktop Windows Home Server – Backup to LAN The Clear & Clean Desktop Use This Bookmarklet to Easily Get Albums Use AutoHotkey to Assign a Hotkey to a Specific Window Latest Software Reviews Tinyhacker Random Tips DVDFab 6 Revo Uninstaller Pro Registry Mechanic 9 for Windows PC Tools Internet Security Suite 2010 Penolo Lets You Share Sketches On Twitter Visit Woolyss.com for Old School Games, Music and Videos Add a Custom Title in IE using Spybot or Spyware Blaster When You Need to Hail a Taxi in NYC Live Map of Marine Traffic NoSquint Remembers Site Specific Zoom Levels (Firefox)

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  • SSAS Compare: an intern’s journey

    - by Red Gate Software BI Tools Team
    About a month ago, David mentioned an intern working in the BI Tools Team. That intern happens to be me! In five weeks’ time, I’ll start my second year of Computer Science at the University of Cambridge and be a full-time student again, but for the past eight weeks, I’ve been living a completely different life. As Jon mentioned before, the teams here at Red Gate are small and everyone (including the interns!) is responsible for the product as a whole. I’ve attended planning sessions, UX tests, daily meetings, and everything else a full-time member of the team would; I had as much say in where we would go next with the product as anyone; I was able to see that what I was doing was an important part of the product from the feedback we got in the UX tests. All these things almost made me forget that this is just an internship and not my full-time job. First steps at Red Gate Being based in Cambridge, Red Gate has many Cambridge university graduates working for them. They also hire some Cambridge undergraduates for internships each summer. With its popularity with university graduates and its great working environment, Red Gate has managed to build up a great reputation. When I thought of doing an internship here in Cambridge, Red Gate just seemed to be the obvious choice for my first real work experience. On my first day at Red Gate, David, the lead developer for SSAS Compare, helped me settle in and explained what I’d be doing. My task was to improve the user experience of displaying differences between MDX scripts by syntax highlighting, script formatting, and improving the difference identification in the first place. David suggested how I should approach the problem, but left all the details and design decisions to me. That was when I realised how much independence and responsibility I’d have. What I’ve done If you launch the latest version of SSAS Compare and drill down to an MDX script difference, you can see the changes that have been made. In earlier versions, you could only see the scripts in plain text on both sides — either in black or grey, depending on whether they were the same or not. However, you couldn’t see exactly where the scripts were different, which was especially annoying when the two scripts were large – as they often are. Furthermore, if parts of the two scripts were formatted differently, they seemed to be different but were actually the same, which caused even more confusion and made it difficult to see where the differences were. All these issues have been fixed now. The two scripts are automatically formatted by the tool so that if two things are syntactically equivalent, they look the same – including case differences in keywords! The actual difference is highlighted in grey, which makes them easy to spot. The difference identification has been improved as well, so two scripts aren’t identified as different if there’s just a difference in meaningless whitespace characters, or when you have “select” on one side and “SELECT” on the other. We also have syntax highlighting, which makes it easier to read the scripts. How I did it In order to do the formatting properly, we decided to parse the MDX scripts. After some investigation into parser builders, I decided to go with the GOLD Parser builder and the bsn-goldparser .NET engine. GOLD Parser builder provides a fairly nice GUI to write, build, and test grammar in. We also liked the idea of separating the grammar building from parsing a text. The bsn-goldparser is one of many .NET engines for GOLD, and although it doesn’t support the newest features of GOLD Parser, it has “the ability to map semantic action classes to terminals or reduction rules, so that a completely functional semantic AST can be created directly without intermediate token AST representation, and without the need for glue code.” That makes it much easier for us to change the implementation in our program when we change the grammar. As bsn-goldparser is open source, and I wanted some more features in it, I contributed two new features which have now been merged to the project. Unfortunately, there wasn’t an MDX grammar written for GOLD already, so I had to write it myself. I was referencing MSDN to get the formal grammar specification, but the specification was all over the place, so it wasn’t that easy to implement and find. We’re aware that we don’t yet fully support all valid MDX, so sometimes you’ll just see the MDX script difference displayed the old way. In that case, there is some grammar construct we don’t yet recognise. If you come across something SSAS Compare doesn’t recognise, we’d love to hear about it so we can add it to our grammar. When some MDX script gets parsed, a tree is produced. That tree can then be processed into a list of inlines which deal with the correct formatting and can be outputted to the screen. Doing all this has led me to many new technologies and projects I haven’t worked with before. This was my first experience with C# and Visual Studio, although I have done things in Java before. I have learnt how to unit test with NUnit, how to do dependency injection with Ninject, how to source-control code with SVN and Mercurial, how to build with TeamCity, how to use GOLD, and many other things. What’s coming next Sadly, my internship comes to an end this week, so there will be less development on MDX difference view for a while. But the team is going to work on marking the differences better and making it consistent with difference indication in the top part of comparison window, and will keep adding support for more MDX grammar so you can see the differences easily in every comparison you make. So long! And maybe I’ll see you next summer!

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  • New .NET Library for Accessing the Survey Monkey API

    - by Ben Emmett
    I’ve used Survey Monkey’s API for a while, and though it’s pretty powerful, there’s a lot of boilerplate each time it’s used in a new project, and the json it returns needs a bunch of processing to be able to use the raw information. So I’ve finally got around to releasing a .NET library you can use to consume the API more easily. The main advantages are: Only ever deal with strongly-typed .NET objects, making everything much more robust and a lot faster to get going Automatically handles things like rate-limiting and paging through results Uses combinations of endpoints to get all relevant data for you, and processes raw response data to map responses to questions To start, either install it using NuGet with PM> Install-Package SurveyMonkeyApi (easier option), or grab the source from https://github.com/bcemmett/SurveyMonkeyApi if you prefer to build it yourself. You’ll also need to have signed up for a developer account with Survey Monkey, and have both your API key and an OAuth token. A simple usage would be something like: string apiKey = "KEY"; string token = "TOKEN"; var sm = new SurveyMonkeyApi(apiKey, token); List<Survey> surveys = sm.GetSurveyList(); The surveys object is now a list of surveys with all the information available from the /surveys/get_survey_list API endpoint, including the title, id, date it was created and last modified, language, number of questions / responses, and relevant urls. If there are more than 1000 surveys in your account, the library pages through the results for you, making multiple requests to get a complete list of surveys. All the filtering available in the API can be controlled using .NET objects. For example you might only want surveys created in the last year and containing “pineapple” in the title: var settings = new GetSurveyListSettings { Title = "pineapple", StartDate = DateTime.Now.AddYears(-1) }; List<Survey> surveys = sm.GetSurveyList(settings); By default, whenever optional fields can be requested with a response, they will all be fetched for you. You can change this behaviour if for some reason you explicitly don’t want the information, using var settings = new GetSurveyListSettings { OptionalData = new GetSurveyListSettingsOptionalData { DateCreated = false, AnalysisUrl = false } }; Survey Monkey’s 7 read-only endpoints are supported, and the other 4 which make modifications to data might be supported in the future. The endpoints are: Endpoint Method Object returned /surveys/get_survey_list GetSurveyList() List<Survey> /surveys/get_survey_details GetSurveyDetails() Survey /surveys/get_collector_list GetCollectorList() List<Collector> /surveys/get_respondent_list GetRespondentList() List<Respondent> /surveys/get_responses GetResponses() List<Response> /surveys/get_response_counts GetResponseCounts() Collector /user/get_user_details GetUserDetails() UserDetails /batch/create_flow Not supported Not supported /batch/send_flow Not supported Not supported /templates/get_template_list Not supported Not supported /collectors/create_collector Not supported Not supported The hierarchy of objects the library can return is Survey List<Page> List<Question> QuestionType List<Answer> List<Item> List<Collector> List<Response> Respondent List<ResponseQuestion> List<ResponseAnswer> Each of these classes has properties which map directly to the names of properties returned by the API itself (though using PascalCasing which is more natural for .NET, rather than the snake_casing used by SurveyMonkey). For most users, Survey Monkey imposes a rate limit of 2 requests per second, so by default the library leaves at least 500ms between requests. You can request higher limits from them, so if you want to change the delay between requests just use a different constructor: var sm = new SurveyMonkeyApi(apiKey, token, 200); //200ms delay = 5 reqs per sec There’s a separate cap of 1000 requests per day for each API key, which the library doesn’t currently enforce, so if you think you’ll be in danger of exceeding that you’ll need to handle it yourself for now.  To help, you can see how many requests the current instance of the SurveyMonkeyApi object has made by reading its RequestsMade property. If the library encounters any errors, including communicating with the API, it will throw a SurveyMonkeyException, so be sure to handle that sensibly any time you use it to make calls. Finally, if you have a survey (or list of surveys) obtained using GetSurveyList(), the library can automatically fill in all available information using sm.FillMissingSurveyInformation(surveys); For each survey in the list, it uses the other endpoints to fill in the missing information about the survey’s question structure, respondents, and responses. This results in at least 5 API calls being made per survey, so be careful before passing it a large list. It also joins up the raw response information to the survey’s question structure, so that for each question in a respondent’s set of replies, you can access a ProcessedAnswer object. For example, a response to a dropdown question (from the /surveys/get_responses endpoint) might be represented in json as { "answers": [ { "row": "9384627365", } ], "question_id": "615487516" } Separately, the question’s structure (from the /surveys/get_survey_details endpoint) might have several possible answers, one of which might look like { "text": "Fourth item in dropdown list", "visible": true, "position": 4, "type": "row", "answer_id": "9384627365" } The library understands how this mapping works, and uses that to give you the following ProcessedAnswer object, which first describes the family and type of question, and secondly gives you the respondent’s answers as they relate to the question. Survey Monkey has many different question types, with 11 distinct data structures, each of which are supported by the library. If you have suggestions or spot any bugs, let me know in the comments, or even better submit a pull request .

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  • It’s time that you ought to know what you don’t know

    - by fatherjack
    There is a famous quote about unknown unknowns and known knowns and so on but I’ll let you review that if you are interested. What I am worried about is that there are things going on in your environment that you ought to know about, indeed you have asked to be told about but you are not getting the information. When you schedule a SQL Agent job you can set it to send an email to an inbox monitored by someone who needs to know and indeed can do something about it. However, what happens if the email process isnt successful? Check your servers with this: USE [msdb] GO /* This code selects the top 10 most recent SQLAgent jobs that failed to complete successfully and where the email notification failed too. Jonathan Allen Jul 2012 */ DECLARE @Date DATETIME SELECT @Date = DATEADD(d, DATEDIFF(d, '19000101', GETDATE()) - 1, '19000101') SELECT TOP 10 [s].[name] , [sjh].[step_name] , [sjh].[sql_message_id] , [sjh].[sql_severity] , [sjh].[message] , [sjh].[run_date] , [sjh].[run_time] , [sjh].[run_duration] , [sjh].[operator_id_emailed] , [sjh].[operator_id_netsent] , [sjh].[operator_id_paged] , [sjh].[retries_attempted] FROM [dbo].[sysjobhistory] AS sjh INNER JOIN [dbo].[sysjobs] AS s ON [sjh].[job_id] = [s].[job_id] WHERE EXISTS ( SELECT * FROM [dbo].[sysjobs] AS s INNER JOIN [dbo].[sysjobhistory] AS s2 ON [s].[job_id] = [s2].[job_id] WHERE [sjh].[job_id] = [s2].[job_id] AND [s2].[message] LIKE '%failed to notify%' AND CONVERT(DATETIME, CONVERT(VARCHAR(15), [s2].[run_date])) >= @date AND [s2].[run_status] = 0 ) AND sjh.[run_status] = 0 AND sjh.[step_id] != 0 AND CONVERT(DATETIME, CONVERT(VARCHAR(15), [run_date])) >= @date ORDER BY [sjh].[run_date] DESC , [sjh].[run_time] DESC go USE [msdb] go /* This code summarises details of SQLAgent jobs that failed to complete successfully and where the email notification failed too. Jonathan Allen Jul 2012 */ DECLARE @Date DATETIME SELECT @Date = DATEADD(d, DATEDIFF(d, '19000101', GETDATE()) - 1, '19000101') SELECT [s].name , [s2].[step_id] , CONVERT(DATETIME, CONVERT(VARCHAR(15), [s2].[run_date])) AS [rundate] , COUNT(*) AS [execution count] FROM [dbo].[sysjobs] AS s INNER JOIN [dbo].[sysjobhistory] AS s2 ON [s].[job_id] = [s2].[job_id] WHERE [s2].[message] LIKE '%failed to notify%' AND CONVERT(DATETIME, CONVERT(VARCHAR(15), [s2].[run_date])) >= @date AND [s2].[run_status] = 0 GROUP BY name , [s2].[step_id] , [s2].[run_date] ORDER BY [s2].[run_dateDESC] These two result sets will show if there are any SQL Agent jobs that have run on your servers that failed and failed to successfully email about the failure. I hope it’s of use to you. Disclaimer – Jonathan is a Friend of Red Gate and as such, whenever they are discussed, will have a generally positive disposition towards Red Gate tools. Other tools are often available and you should always try others before you come back and buy the Red Gate ones. All code in this blog is provided “as is” and no guarantee, warranty or accuracy is applicable or inferred, run the code on a test server and be sure to understand it before you run it on a server that means a lot to you or your manager.

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  • How to get SQL Railroad Diagrams from MSDN BNF syntax notation.

    - by Phil Factor
    pre {margin-bottom:.0001pt; font-size:8.0pt; font-family:"Courier New"; margin-left: 0cm; margin-right: 0cm; margin-top: 0cm; } On SQL Server Books-On-Line, in the Transact-SQL Reference (database Engine), every SQL Statement has its syntax represented in  ‘Backus–Naur Form’ notation (BNF)  syntax. For a programmer in a hurry, this should be ideal because It is the only quick way to understand and appreciate all the permutations of the syntax. It is a great feature once you get your eye in. It isn’t the only way to get the information;  You can, of course, reverse-engineer an understanding of the syntax from the examples, but your understanding won’t be complete, and you’ll have wasted time doing it. BNF is a good start in representing the syntax:  Oracle and SQLite go one step further, and have proper railroad diagrams for their syntax, which is a far more accessible way of doing it. There are three problems with the BNF on MSDN. Firstly, it is isn’t a standard version of  BNF, but an ancient fork from EBNF, inherited from Sybase. Secondly, it is excruciatingly difficult to understand, and thirdly it has a number of syntactic and semantic errors. The page describing DML triggers, for example, currently has the absurd BNF error that makes it state that all statements in the body of the trigger must be separated by commas.  There are a few other detail problems too. Here is the offending syntax for a DML trigger, pasted from MSDN. Trigger on an INSERT, UPDATE, or DELETE statement to a table or view (DML Trigger) CREATE TRIGGER [ schema_name . ]trigger_name ON { table | view } [ WITH <dml_trigger_option> [ ,...n ] ] { FOR | AFTER | INSTEAD OF } { [ INSERT ] [ , ] [ UPDATE ] [ , ] [ DELETE ] } [ NOT FOR REPLICATION ] AS { sql_statement [ ; ] [ ,...n ] | EXTERNAL NAME <method specifier [ ; ] > }   <dml_trigger_option> ::=     [ ENCRYPTION ]     [ EXECUTE AS Clause ]   <method_specifier> ::=  This should, of course, be /* Trigger on an INSERT, UPDATE, or DELETE statement to a table or view (DML Trigger) */ CREATE TRIGGER [ schema_name . ]trigger_name ON { table | view } [ WITH <dml_trigger_option> [ ,...n ] ] { FOR | AFTER | INSTEAD OF } { [ INSERT ] [ , ] [ UPDATE ] [ , ] [ DELETE ] } [ NOT FOR REPLICATION ] AS { {sql_statement [ ; ]} [ ...n ] | EXTERNAL NAME <method_specifier> [ ; ] }   <dml_trigger_option> ::=     [ ENCRYPTION ]     [ EXECUTE AS CLAUSE ]   <method_specifier> ::=     assembly_name.class_name.method_name I’d love to tell Microsoft when I spot errors like this so they can correct them but I can’t. Obviously, there is a mechanism on MSDN to get errors corrected by using comments, but that doesn’t work for me (*Error occurred while saving your data.”), and when I report that the comment system doesn’t work to MSDN, I get no reply. I’ve been trying to create railroad diagrams for all the important SQL Server SQL statements, as good as you’d find for Oracle, and have so far published the CREATE TABLE and ALTER TABLE railroad diagrams based on the BNF. Although I’ve been aware of them, I’ve never realised until recently how many errors there are. Then, Colin Daley created a translator for the SQL Server dialect of  BNF which outputs standard EBNF notation used by the W3C. The example MSDN BNF for the trigger would be rendered as … /* Trigger on an INSERT, UPDATE, or DELETE statement to a table or view (DML Trigger) */ create_trigger ::= 'CREATE TRIGGER' ( schema_name '.' ) ? trigger_name 'ON' ( table | view ) ( 'WITH' dml_trigger_option ( ',' dml_trigger_option ) * ) ? ( 'FOR' | 'AFTER' | 'INSTEAD OF' ) ( ( 'INSERT' ) ? ( ',' ) ? ( 'UPDATE' ) ? ( ',' ) ? ( 'DELETE' ) ? ) ( 'NOT FOR REPLICATION' ) ? 'AS' ( ( sql_statement ( ';' ) ? ) + | 'EXTERNAL NAME' method_specifier ( ';' ) ? )   dml_trigger_option ::= ( 'ENCRYPTION' ) ? ( 'EXECUTE AS CLAUSE' ) ?   method_specifier ::= assembly_name '.' class_name '.' method_name Colin’s intention was to allow anyone to paste SQL Server’s BNF notation into his website-based parser, and from this generate classic railroad diagrams via Gunther Rademacher's Railroad Diagram Generator.  Colin's application does this for you: you're not aware that you are moving to a different site.  Because Colin's 'translator' it is a parser, it will pick up syntax errors. Once you’ve fixed the syntax errors, you will get the syntax in the form of a human-readable railroad diagram and, in this form, the semantic mistakes become flamingly obvious. Gunter’s Railroad Diagram Generator is brilliant. To be able, after correcting the MSDN dialect of BNF, to generate a standard EBNF, and from thence to create railroad diagrams for SQL Server’s syntax that are as good as Oracle’s, is a great boon, and many thanks to Colin for the idea. Here is the result of the W3C EBNF from Colin’s application then being run through the Railroad diagram generator. create_trigger: dml_trigger_option: method_specifier:   Now that’s much better, you’ll agree. This is pretty easy to understand, and at this point any error is immediately obvious. This should be seriously useful, and it is to me. However  there is that snag. The BNF is generally incorrect, and you can’t expect the average visitor to mess about with it. The answer is, of course, to correct the BNF on MSDN and maybe even add railroad diagrams for the syntax. Stop giggling! I agree it won’t happen. In the meantime, we need to collaboratively store and publish these corrected syntaxes ourselves as we do them. How? GitHub?  SQL Server Central?  Simple-Talk? What should those of us who use the system  do with our corrected EBNF so that anyone can use them without hassle?

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  • Replacing “if”s with your own number system

    - by Michael Williamson
    During our second code retreat at Red Gate, the restriction for one of the sessions was disallowing the use of if statements. That includes other constructs that have the same effect, such as switch statements or loops that will only be executed zero or one times. The idea is to encourage use of polymorphism instead, and see just how far it can be used to get rid of “if”s. The main place where people struggled to get rid of numbers from their implementation of Conway’s Game of Life was the piece of code that decides whether a cell is live or dead in the next generation. For instance, for a cell that’s currently live, the code might look something like this: if (numberOfNeighbours == 2 || numberOfNeighbours == 3) { return CellState.LIVE; } else { return CellState.DEAD; } The problem is that we need to change behaviour depending on the number of neighbours each cell has, but polymorphism only allows us to switch behaviour based on the type of a value. It follows that the solution is to make different numbers have different types: public interface IConwayNumber { IConwayNumber Increment(); CellState LiveCellNextGeneration(); } public class Zero : IConwayNumber { public IConwayNumber Increment() { return new One(); } public CellState LiveCellNextGeneration() { return CellState.DEAD; } } public class One : IConwayNumber { public IConwayNumber Increment() { return new Two(); } public CellState LiveCellNextGeneration() { return CellState.LIVE; } } public class Two : IConwayNumber { public IConwayNumber Increment() { return new ThreeOrMore(); } public CellState LiveCellNextGeneration() { return CellState.LIVE; } } public class ThreeOrMore : IConwayNumber { public IConwayNumber Increment() { return this; } public CellState LiveCellNextGeneration() { return CellState.DEAD; } } In the code that counts the number of neighbours, we use our new number system by starting with Zero and incrementing when we find a neighbour. To choose the next state of the cell, rather than inspecting the number of neighbours, we ask the number of neighbours for the next state directly: return numberOfNeighbours.LiveCellNextGeneration(); And now we have no “if”s! If C# had double-dispatch, or if we used the visitor pattern, we could move the logic for choosing the next cell out of the number classes, which might feel a bit more natural. I suspect that reimplementing the natural numbers is still going to feel about the same amount of crazy though.

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  • The best, in the West

    - by Fatherjack
    As many of you know, I run the SQL South West user group and we are currently in full flow preparing to stage the UK’s second SQL Saturday. The SQL Saturday spotlight is going to fall on Exeter in March 2013. We have full-day session on Friday 8th with some truly amazing speakers giving their insights and experience into some vital areas of working with SQL Server: Dave Ballantyne and Dave Morrison – TSQL and internals Christian Bolton and Gavin Payne – Mission critical data platforms on Windows Server 2012 Denny Cherry – SQL Server Security André Kamman – Powershell 3.0 for SQL Server Administrators and Developers Mladen Prajdic – From SQL Traces to Extended Events – The next big switch. A number of people have claimed that the choice is too good and they’d have trouble selecting just one session to attend. I can see how this is a problem but hope that they make their minds up quickly. The venue is a bespoke conference suite in the centre of Exeter but has limited capacity so we are working on a first-come first-served basis. All the session details and booking and travel information can be found on our user group website. The Saturday will be a day of free, 50 minute sessions on all aspects SQL Server from almost 30 different speakers. If you would like to submit a session then get a move on as submissions close on 8th January 2013 (That’s less than a month away). We are really interested in getting new speakers started so we have a lightning talk session where you can come along and give a small talk (anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes long) about anything connected with SQL Server as a way to introduce you to what it’s like to be a speaker at an event. Details on registering to attend and to submit a session (Lightning talks need to be submitted too please) can be found on our SQL Saturday pages. This is going to be the biggest and best bespoke SQL Server conference to ever take place this far South West in the UK and we aim to give everyone who comes to either day a real experience of the South West so we have a few surprises for you on the day.

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  • Another Marketing Conference, part two – the afternoon

    - by Roger Hart
    In my previous post, I’ve covered the morning sessions at AMC2012. Here’s the rest of the write-up. I’ve skipped Charles Nixon’s session which was a blend of funky futurism and professional development advice, but you can see his slides here. I’ve also skipped the Google presentation, as it was a little thin on insight. 6 – Brand ambassadors: Getting universal buy in across the organisation, Vanessa Northam Slides are here This was the strongest enforcement of the idea that brand and campaign values need to be delivered throughout the organization if they’re going to work. Vanessa runs internal communications at e-on, and shared her experience of using internal comms to align an organization and thereby get the most out of a campaign. She views the purpose of internal comms as: “…to help leaders, to communicate the purpose and future of an organization, and support change.” This (and culture) primes front line staff, which creates customer experience and spreads brand. You ensure a whole organization knows what’s going on with both internal and external comms. If everybody is aligned and informed, if everybody can clearly articulate your brand and campaign goals, then you can turn everybody into an advocate. Alignment is a powerful tool for delivering a consistent experience and message. The pathological counter example is the one in which a marketing message goes out, which creates inbound customer contacts that front line contact staff haven’t been briefed to handle. The NatWest campaign was again mentioned in this context. The good example was e-on’s cheaper tariff campaign. Building a groundswell of internal excitement, and even running an internal launch meant everyone could contribute to a good customer experience. They found that meter readers were excited – not a group they’d considered as obvious in providing customer experience. But they were a group that has a lot of face-to-face contact with customers, and often were asked questions they may not have been briefed to answer. Being able to communicate a simple new message made it easier for them, and also let them become a sales and marketing asset to the organization. 7 – Goodbye Internet, Hello Outernet: the rise and rise of augmented reality, Matt Mills I wasn’t going to write this up, because it was essentially a sales demo for Aurasma. But the technology does merit some discussion. Basically, it replaces QR codes with visual recognition, and provides a simple-looking back end for attaching content. It’s quite sexy. But here’s my beef with it: QR codes had a clear visual language – when you saw one you knew what it was and what to do with it. They were clunky, but they had the “getting started” problem solved out of the box once you knew what you were looking at. However, they fail because QR code reading isn’t native to the platform. You needed an app, which meant you needed to know to download one. Consequentially, you can’t use QR codes with and ubiquity, or depend on them. This means marketers, content providers, etc, never pushed them, and they remained and awkward oddity, a minority sport. Aurasma half solves problem two, and re-introduces problem one, making it potentially half as useful as a QR code. It’s free, and you can apparently build it into your own apps. Add to that the likelihood of it becoming native to the platform if it takes off, and it may have legs. I guess we’ll see. 8 – We all need to code, Helen Mayor Great title – good point. If there was anybody in the room who didn’t at least know basic HTML, and if Helen’s presentation inspired them to learn, that’s fantastic. However, this was a half hour sales pitch for a basic coding training course. Beyond advocating coding skills it contained no useful content. Marketers may also like to consider some of these resources if they’re looking to learn code: Code Academy – free interactive tutorials Treehouse – learn web design, web dev, or app dev WebPlatform.org – tutorials and documentation for web tech  11 – Understanding our inner creativity, Margaret Boden This session was the most theoretical and probably least actionable of the day. It also held my attention utterly. Margaret spoke fluently, fascinatingly, without slides, on the subject of types of creativity and how they work. It was splendid. Yes, it raised a wry smile whenever she spoke of “the content of advertisements” and gave an example from 1970s TV ads, but even without the attempt to meet the conference’s theme this would have been thoroughly engaging. There are, Margaret suggested, three types of creativity: Combinatorial creativity The most common form, and consisting of synthesising ideas from existing and familiar concepts and tropes. Exploratory creativity Less common, this involves exploring the limits and quirks of a particular constraint or style. Transformational creativity This is uncommon, and arises from finding a way to do something that the existing rules would hold to be impossible. In essence, this involves breaking one of the constraints that exploratory creativity is composed from. Combinatorial creativity, she suggested, is particularly important for attaching favourable ideas to existing things. As such is it probably worth developing for marketing. Exploratory creativity may then come into play in something like developing and optimising an idea or campaign that now has momentum. Transformational creativity exists at the edges of this exploration. She suggested that products may often be transformational, but that marketing seemed unlikely to in her experience. This made me wonder about Listerine. Crucially, transformational creativity is characterised by there being some element of continuity with the strictures of previous thinking. Once it has happened, there may be  move from a revolutionary instance into an explored style. Again, from a marketing perspective, this seems to chime well with the thinking in Youngme Moon’s book: Different Talking about the birth of Modernism is visual art, Margaret pointed out that transformational creativity has historically risked a backlash, demanding what is essentially an education of the market. This is best accomplished by referring back to the continuities with the past in order to make the new familiar. Thoughts The afternoon is harder to sum up than the morning. It felt less concrete, and was troubled by a short run of poor presentations in the middle. Mainly, I found myself wrestling with the internal comms issue. It’s one of those things that seems astonishingly obvious in hindsight, but any campaign – particularly any large one – is doomed if the people involved can’t believe in it. We’ve run things here that haven’t gone so well, of course we have; who hasn’t? I’m not going to air any laundry, but people not being informed (much less aligned) feels like a common factor. It’s tough though. Managing and anticipating information needs across an organization of any size can’t be easy. Even the simple things like ensuring sales and support departments know what’s in a product release, and what messages go with it are easy to botch. The thing I like about framing this as a brand and campaign advocacy problem is that it makes it likely to get addressed. Better is always sexier than less-worse. Any technical communicator who’s ever felt crowded out by a content strategist or marketing copywriter  knows this – increasing revenue gets a seat at the table far more readily than reducing support costs, even if the financial impact is identical. So that’s it from AMC. The big thought-provokers were social buying behaviour and eliciting behaviour change, and the value of internal communications in ensuring successful campaigns and continuity of customer experience. I’ll be chewing over that for a while, and I’d definitely return next year.      

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  • SQL Monitor’s data repository: Alerts

    - by Chris Lambrou
    In my previous post, I introduced the SQL Monitor data repository, and described how the monitored objects are stored in a hierarchy in the data schema, in a series of tables with a _Keys suffix. In this post I had planned to describe how the actual data for the monitored objects is stored in corresponding tables with _StableSamples and _UnstableSamples suffixes. However, I’m going to postpone that until my next post, as I’ve had a request from a SQL Monitor user to explain how alerts are stored. In the SQL Monitor data repository, alerts are stored in tables belonging to the alert schema, which contains the following five tables: alert.Alert alert.Alert_Cleared alert.Alert_Comment alert.Alert_Severity alert.Alert_Type In this post, I’m only going to cover the alert.Alert and alert.Alert_Type tables. I may cover the other three tables in a later post. The most important table in this schema is alert.Alert, as each row in this table corresponds to a single alert. So let’s have a look at it. SELECT TOP 100 AlertId, AlertType, TargetObject, [Read], SubType FROM alert.Alert ORDER BY AlertId DESC;  AlertIdAlertTypeTargetObjectReadSubType 165550397:Cluster,1,4:Name,s29:srp-mr03.testnet.red-gate.com,9:SqlServer,1,4:Name,s0:,10 265549387:Cluster,1,4:Name,s29:srp-mr03.testnet.red-gate.com,7:Machine,1,4:Name,s0:,10 365548187:Cluster,1,4:Name,s7:granger,9:SqlServer,1,4:Name,s0:,8:Database,1,4:Name,s15:FavouriteThings,00 465547157:Cluster,1,4:Name,s7:granger,9:SqlServer,1,4:Name,s0:,8:Database,1,4:Name,s15:FavouriteThings,00 565546147:Cluster,1,4:Name,s7:granger,9:SqlServer,1,4:Name,s0:,8:Database,1,4:Name,s15:FavouriteThings,00 665545187:Cluster,1,4:Name,s7:granger,9:SqlServer,1,4:Name,s0:,8:Database,1,4:Name,s14:SqlMonitorData,00 765544157:Cluster,1,4:Name,s7:granger,9:SqlServer,1,4:Name,s0:,8:Database,1,4:Name,s14:SqlMonitorData,00 865543147:Cluster,1,4:Name,s7:granger,9:SqlServer,1,4:Name,s0:,8:Database,1,4:Name,s14:SqlMonitorData,00 965542187:Cluster,1,4:Name,s7:granger,9:SqlServer,1,4:Name,s0:,8:Database,1,4:Name,s4:msdb,00 1065541147:Cluster,1,4:Name,s7:granger,9:SqlServer,1,4:Name,s0:,8:Database,1,4:Name,s4:msdb,00 11…     So what are we seeing here, then? Well, AlertId is an auto-incrementing identity column, so ORDER BY AlertId DESC ensures that we see the most recent alerts first. AlertType indicates the type of each alert, such as Job failed (6), Backup overdue (14) or Long-running query (12). The TargetObject column indicates which monitored object the alert is associated with. The Read column acts as a flag to indicate whether or not the alert has been read. And finally the SubType column is used in the case of a Custom metric (40) alert, to indicate which custom metric the alert pertains to. Okay, now lets look at some of those columns in more detail. The AlertType column is an easy one to start with, and it brings use nicely to the next table, data.Alert_Type. Let’s have a look at what’s in this table: SELECT AlertType, Event, Monitoring, Name, Description FROM alert.Alert_Type ORDER BY AlertType;  AlertTypeEventMonitoringNameDescription 1100Processor utilizationProcessor utilization (CPU) on a host machine stays above a threshold percentage for longer than a specified duration 2210SQL Server error log entryAn error is written to the SQL Server error log with a severity level above a specified value. 3310Cluster failoverThe active cluster node fails, causing the SQL Server instance to switch nodes. 4410DeadlockSQL deadlock occurs. 5500Processor under-utilizationProcessor utilization (CPU) on a host machine remains below a threshold percentage for longer than a specified duration 6610Job failedA job does not complete successfully (the job returns an error code). 7700Machine unreachableHost machine (Windows server) cannot be contacted on the network. 8800SQL Server instance unreachableThe SQL Server instance is not running or cannot be contacted on the network. 9900Disk spaceDisk space used on a logical disk drive is above a defined threshold for longer than a specified duration. 101000Physical memoryPhysical memory (RAM) used on the host machine stays above a threshold percentage for longer than a specified duration. 111100Blocked processSQL process is blocked for longer than a specified duration. 121200Long-running queryA SQL query runs for longer than a specified duration. 131400Backup overdueNo full backup exists, or the last full backup is older than a specified time. 141500Log backup overdueNo log backup exists, or the last log backup is older than a specified time. 151600Database unavailableDatabase changes from Online to any other state. 161700Page verificationTorn Page Detection or Page Checksum is not enabled for a database. 171800Integrity check overdueNo entry for an integrity check (DBCC DBINFO returns no date for dbi_dbccLastKnownGood field), or the last check is older than a specified time. 181900Fragmented indexesFragmentation level of one or more indexes is above a threshold percentage. 192400Job duration unusualThe duration of a SQL job duration deviates from its baseline duration by more than a threshold percentage. 202501Clock skewSystem clock time on the Base Monitor computer differs from the system clock time on a monitored SQL Server host machine by a specified number of seconds. 212700SQL Server Agent Service statusThe SQL Server Agent Service status matches the status specified. 222800SQL Server Reporting Service statusThe SQL Server Reporting Service status matches the status specified. 232900SQL Server Full Text Search Service statusThe SQL Server Full Text Search Service status matches the status specified. 243000SQL Server Analysis Service statusThe SQL Server Analysis Service status matches the status specified. 253100SQL Server Integration Service statusThe SQL Server Integration Service status matches the status specified. 263300SQL Server Browser Service statusThe SQL Server Browser Service status matches the status specified. 273400SQL Server VSS Writer Service statusThe SQL Server VSS Writer status matches the status specified. 283501Deadlock trace flag disabledThe monitored SQL Server’s trace flag cannot be enabled. 293600Monitoring stopped (host machine credentials)SQL Monitor cannot contact the host machine because authentication failed. 303700Monitoring stopped (SQL Server credentials)SQL Monitor cannot contact the SQL Server instance because authentication failed. 313800Monitoring error (host machine data collection)SQL Monitor cannot collect data from the host machine. 323900Monitoring error (SQL Server data collection)SQL Monitor cannot collect data from the SQL Server instance. 334000Custom metricThe custom metric value has passed an alert threshold. 344100Custom metric collection errorSQL Monitor cannot collect custom metric data from the target object. Basically, alert.Alert_Type is just a big reference table containing information about the 34 different alert types supported by SQL Monitor (note that the largest id is 41, not 34 – some alert types have been retired since SQL Monitor was first developed). The Name and Description columns are self evident, and I’m going to skip over the Event and Monitoring columns as they’re not very interesting. The AlertId column is the primary key, and is referenced by AlertId in the alert.Alert table. As such, we can rewrite our earlier query to join these two tables, in order to provide a more readable view of the alerts: SELECT TOP 100 AlertId, Name, TargetObject, [Read], SubType FROM alert.Alert a JOIN alert.Alert_Type at ON a.AlertType = at.AlertType ORDER BY AlertId DESC;  AlertIdNameTargetObjectReadSubType 165550Monitoring error (SQL Server data collection)7:Cluster,1,4:Name,s29:srp-mr03.testnet.red-gate.com,9:SqlServer,1,4:Name,s0:,00 265549Monitoring error (host machine data collection)7:Cluster,1,4:Name,s29:srp-mr03.testnet.red-gate.com,7:Machine,1,4:Name,s0:,00 365548Integrity check overdue7:Cluster,1,4:Name,s7:granger,9:SqlServer,1,4:Name,s0:,8:Database,1,4:Name,s15:FavouriteThings,00 465547Log backup overdue7:Cluster,1,4:Name,s7:granger,9:SqlServer,1,4:Name,s0:,8:Database,1,4:Name,s15:FavouriteThings,00 565546Backup overdue7:Cluster,1,4:Name,s7:granger,9:SqlServer,1,4:Name,s0:,8:Database,1,4:Name,s15:FavouriteThings,00 665545Integrity check overdue7:Cluster,1,4:Name,s7:granger,9:SqlServer,1,4:Name,s0:,8:Database,1,4:Name,s14:SqlMonitorData,00 765544Log backup overdue7:Cluster,1,4:Name,s7:granger,9:SqlServer,1,4:Name,s0:,8:Database,1,4:Name,s14:SqlMonitorData,00 865543Backup overdue7:Cluster,1,4:Name,s7:granger,9:SqlServer,1,4:Name,s0:,8:Database,1,4:Name,s14:SqlMonitorData,00 965542Integrity check overdue7:Cluster,1,4:Name,s7:granger,9:SqlServer,1,4:Name,s0:,8:Database,1,4:Name,s4:msdb,00 1065541Backup overdue7:Cluster,1,4:Name,s7:granger,9:SqlServer,1,4:Name,s0:,8:Database,1,4:Name,s4:msdb,00 Okay, the next column to discuss in the alert.Alert table is TargetObject. Oh boy, this one’s a bit tricky! The TargetObject of an alert is a serialized string representation of the position in the monitored object hierarchy of the object to which the alert pertains. The serialization format is somewhat convenient for parsing in the C# source code of SQL Monitor, and has some helpful characteristics, but it’s probably very awkward to manipulate in T-SQL. I could document the serialization format here, but it would be very dry reading, so perhaps it’s best to consider an example from the table above. Have a look at the alert with an AlertID of 65543. It’s a Backup overdue alert for the SqlMonitorData database running on the default instance of granger, my laptop. Each different alert type is associated with a specific type of monitored object in the object hierarchy (I described the hierarchy in my previous post). The Backup overdue alert is associated with databases, whose position in the object hierarchy is root → Cluster → SqlServer → Database. The TargetObject value identifies the target object by specifying the key properties at each level in the hierarchy, thus: Cluster: Name = "granger" SqlServer: Name = "" (an empty string, denoting the default instance) Database: Name = "SqlMonitorData" Well, look at the actual TargetObject value for this alert: "7:Cluster,1,4:Name,s7:granger,9:SqlServer,1,4:Name,s0:,8:Database,1,4:Name,s14:SqlMonitorData,". It is indeed composed of three parts, one for each level in the hierarchy: Cluster: "7:Cluster,1,4:Name,s7:granger," SqlServer: "9:SqlServer,1,4:Name,s0:," Database: "8:Database,1,4:Name,s14:SqlMonitorData," Each part is handled in exactly the same way, so let’s concentrate on the first part, "7:Cluster,1,4:Name,s7:granger,". It comprises the following: "7:Cluster," – This identifies the level in the hierarchy. "1," – This indicates how many different key properties there are to uniquely identify a cluster (we saw in my last post that each cluster is identified by a single property, its Name). "4:Name,s14:SqlMonitorData," – This represents the Name property, and its corresponding value, SqlMonitorData. It’s split up like this: "4:Name," – Indicates the name of the key property. "s" – Indicates the type of the key property, in this case, it’s a string. "14:SqlMonitorData," – Indicates the value of the property. At this point, you might be wondering about the format of some of these strings. Why is the string "Cluster" stored as "7:Cluster,"? Well an encoding scheme is used, which consists of the following: "7" – This is the length of the string "Cluster" ":" – This is a delimiter between the length of the string and the actual string’s contents. "Cluster" – This is the string itself. 7 characters. "," – This is a final terminating character that indicates the end of the encoded string. You can see that "4:Name,", "8:Database," and "14:SqlMonitorData," also conform to the same encoding scheme. In the example above, the "s" character is used to indicate that the value of the Name property is a string. If you explore the TargetObject property of alerts in your own SQL Monitor data repository, you might find other characters used for other non-string key property values. The different value types you might possibly encounter are as follows: "I" – Denotes a bigint value. For example, "I65432,". "g" – Denotes a GUID value. For example, "g32116732-63ae-4ab5-bd34-7dfdfb084c18,". "d" – Denotes a datetime value. For example, "d634815384796832438,". The value is stored as a bigint, rather than a native SQL datetime value. I’ll describe how datetime values are handled in the SQL Monitor data repostory in a future post. I suggest you have a look at the alerts in your own SQL Monitor data repository for further examples, so you can see how the TargetObject values are composed for each of the different types of alert. Let me give one further example, though, that represents a Custom metric alert, as this will help in describing the final column of interest in the alert.Alert table, SubType. Let me show you the alert I’m interested in: SELECT AlertId, a.AlertType, Name, TargetObject, [Read], SubType FROM alert.Alert a JOIN alert.Alert_Type at ON a.AlertType = at.AlertType WHERE AlertId = 65769;  AlertIdAlertTypeNameTargetObjectReadSubType 16576940Custom metric7:Cluster,1,4:Name,s7:granger,9:SqlServer,1,4:Name,s0:,8:Database,1,4:Name,s6:master,12:CustomMetric,1,8:MetricId,I2,02 An AlertType value of 40 corresponds to the Custom metric alert type. The Name taken from the alert.Alert_Type table is simply Custom metric, but this doesn’t tell us anything about the specific custom metric that this alert pertains to. That’s where the SubType value comes in. For custom metric alerts, this provides us with the Id of the specific custom alert definition that can be found in the settings.CustomAlertDefinitions table. I don’t really want to delve into custom alert definitions yet (maybe in a later post), but an extra join in the previous query shows us that this alert pertains to the CPU pressure (avg runnable task count) custom metric alert. SELECT AlertId, a.AlertType, at.Name, cad.Name AS CustomAlertName, TargetObject, [Read], SubType FROM alert.Alert a JOIN alert.Alert_Type at ON a.AlertType = at.AlertType JOIN settings.CustomAlertDefinitions cad ON a.SubType = cad.Id WHERE AlertId = 65769;  AlertIdAlertTypeNameCustomAlertNameTargetObjectReadSubType 16576940Custom metricCPU pressure (avg runnable task count)7:Cluster,1,4:Name,s7:granger,9:SqlServer,1,4:Name,s0:,8:Database,1,4:Name,s6:master,12:CustomMetric,1,8:MetricId,I2,02 The TargetObject value in this case breaks down like this: "7:Cluster,1,4:Name,s7:granger," – Cluster named "granger". "9:SqlServer,1,4:Name,s0:," – SqlServer named "" (the default instance). "8:Database,1,4:Name,s6:master," – Database named "master". "12:CustomMetric,1,8:MetricId,I2," – Custom metric with an Id of 2. Note that the hierarchy for a custom metric is slightly different compared to the earlier Backup overdue alert. It’s root → Cluster → SqlServer → Database → CustomMetric. Also notice that, unlike Cluster, SqlServer and Database, the key property for CustomMetric is called MetricId (not Name), and the value is a bigint (not a string). Finally, delving into the custom metric tables is beyond the scope of this post, but for the sake of avoiding any future confusion, I’d like to point out that whilst the SubType references a custom alert definition, the MetricID value embedded in the TargetObject value references a custom metric definition. Although in this case both the custom metric definition and custom alert definition share the same Id value of 2, this is not generally the case. Okay, that’s enough for now, not least because as I’m typing this, it’s almost 2am, I have to go to work tomorrow, and my alarm is set for 6am – eek! In my next post, I’ll either cover the remaining three tables in the alert schema, or I’ll delve into the way SQL Monitor stores its monitoring data, as I’d originally planned to cover in this post.

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  • SQLBeat Podcast – Episode 6 – And the Winner is…Meredith Ryan from Albakerkee.

    - by SQLBeat
    In this episode I speak with the winner of the Exceptional DBA Award for 2012, Meredith Ryan.  We talk about a lot of things, but mainly attending the PASS Summit, first timers (this is PASS related too) and SQL Saturdays. Meredith has been with her present company for 14 years, an achievement of a bygone era in IT, but we are kindred in this area having worked at my present position for nearly 7. We also agree that every DBA should have to spend at least 2 years on Help Desk. I feel really, really dumb for not having recognized her tattoo, which I shamelessly ask about.  Congratulations, Meredith on your award and I look forward to meeting you this year in a few short weeks. Download the MP3

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  • HTG Explains: What’s a Solid State Drive and What Do I Need to Know?

    - by Jason Fitzpatrick
    Solid State Drives (SSDs) are the lighting fast new kid on the hard drive block, but are they a good match for you? Read on as we demystify SSDs. The last few years have seen a marked increase in the availability of SSDs and a decrease in price (although it certainly may not feel that way when comparing prices between SSDs and traditional HDDs). What is an SSD? In what ways do you benefit the most from paying the premium for an SSD? What, if anything, do you need to do differently with an SSD? Read on as we cut through  the new-product-haze surrounding Solid State Drives. Latest Features How-To Geek ETC How to Get Amazing Color from Photos in Photoshop, GIMP, and Paint.NET Learn To Adjust Contrast Like a Pro in Photoshop, GIMP, and Paint.NET Have You Ever Wondered How Your Operating System Got Its Name? Should You Delete Windows 7 Service Pack Backup Files to Save Space? What Can Super Mario Teach Us About Graphics Technology? Windows 7 Service Pack 1 is Released: But Should You Install It? Save Files Directly from Your Browser to the Cloud in Chrome and Iron The Steve Jobs Chronicles – Charlie and the Apple Factory [Video] Google Chrome Updates; Faster, Cleaner Menus, Encrypted Password Syncing, and More Glowing Chess Set Combines LEDs, Chess, and DIY Electronics Fun Peaceful Alpine River on a Sunny Day [Wallpaper] Fast Society Creates Mini and Mobile Temporary Social Networks

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  • Getting a Database into Source Control

    - by Grant Fritchey
    For any number of reasons, from simple auditing, to change tracking, to automated deployment, to integration with application development processes, you’re going to want to place your database into source control. Using Red Gate SQL Source Control this process is extremely simple. SQL Source Control works within your SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) interface.  This means you can work with your databases in any way that you’re used to working with them. If you prefer scripts to using the GUI, not a problem. If you prefer using the GUI to having to learn T-SQL, again, that’s fine. After installing SQL Source Control, this is what you’ll see when you open SSMS:   SQL Source Control is now a direct piece of the SSMS environment. The key point initially is that I currently don’t have a database selected. You can even see that in the SQL Source Control window where it shows, in red, “No database selected – select a database in Object Explorer.” If I expand my Databases list in the Object Explorer, you’ll be able to immediately see which databases have been integrated with source control and which have not. There are visible differences between the databases as you can see here:   To add a database to source control, I first have to select it. For this example, I’m going to add the AdventureWorks2012 database to an instance of the SVN source control software (I’m using uberSVN). When I click on the AdventureWorks2012 database, the SQL Source Control screen changes:   I’m going to need to click on the “Link database to source control” text which will open up a window for connecting this database to the source control system of my choice.  You can pick from the default source control systems on the left, or define one of your own. I also have to provide the connection string for the location within the source control system where I’ll be storing my database code. I set these up in advance. You’ll need two. One for the main set of scripts and one for special scripts called Migrations that deal with different kinds of changes between versions of the code. Migrations help you solve problems like having to create or modify data in columns as part of a structural change. I’ll talk more about them another day. Finally, I have to determine if this is an isolated environment that I’m going to be the only one use, a dedicated database. Or, if I’m sharing the database in a shared environment with other developers, a shared database.  The main difference is, under a dedicated database, I will need to regularly get any changes that other developers have made from source control and integrate it into my database. While, under a shared database, all changes for all developers are made at the same time, which means you could commit other peoples work without proper testing. It all depends on the type of environment you work within. But, when it’s all set, it will look like this: SQL Source Control will compare the results between the empty folders in source control and the database, AdventureWorks2012. You’ll get a report showing exactly the list of differences and you can choose which ones will get checked into source control. Each of the database objects is scripted individually. You’ll be able to modify them later in the same way. Here’s the list of differences for my new database:   You can select/deselect all the objects or each object individually. You also get a report showing the differences between what’s in the database and what’s in source control. If there was already a database in source control, you’d only see changes to database objects rather than every single object. You can see that the database objects can be sorted by name, by type, or other choices. I’m going to add a comment such as “Initial creation of database in source control.” And then click on the Commit button which will put all the objects in my database into the source control system. That’s all it takes to get the objects into source control initially. Now is when things can get fun with breaking changes to code, automated deployments, unit testing and all the rest.

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  • CloudBerry Online Backup 1.5 for Windows Home Server

    - by The Geek
    Overview CloudBerry Online Backup version 1.5 is a front end application for Amazon S3 storage for backing up your Windows Home Server data. It makes backing up your essential data to Amazon S3 an easy process in the event the disaster strikes. Installation You install the Cloudberry Addin as you do for any addins for Windows Home Server. On a PC on your network, browse to the shared folders on your server and open the Add-Ins folder and copy over WHS_CloudBerryOnlineBackupSetup_v1.5.0.81S3o.msi (link below), then close out of the folder. Next launch the Windows Home Server Console, click Settings, then Add-Ins. Click on the Available tab and click the Install button. It installs very quickly, and when you get the Installation Succeeded dialog click OK. You will lose connection through the Console, just click OK, then reconnect. After reconnecting, you’ll see CloudBerry Backup has been installed, and you can begin using it. You can setup a backup plan right away or find out what’s new with version 1.5. Amazon S3 Account If you don’t already have an Amazon S3 account, you’ll be prompted to create a new one. Click on the Create an account hyperlink, which takes you to the Amazon S3 page where you can sign up. After reviewing the functionality of Amazon S3, click on the Sign Up for Amazon S3 button. Enter in your contact information and accept the Amazon Web Services Customer Agreement. You’re then shown their pricing for storage plans. The amount of storage space you use will depend on your needs. It’s relatively cheap for smaller amounts of data. Just keep in mind the more data you store and download, the more S3 is going to cost. Note: Amazon S3 is introducing Reduced Redundancy Storage which will lower the cost of the data stored on S3. CloudBerry 1.5 will support this new feature. You can find out more about this new pricing structure. Note: Keep in mind that after you first sign up for an Amazon S3 account, it can take up to 24 hours to be authorized. In fact, you may want to sign up for the S3 account before installing the Add-In. After you sign up for your S3 Account, you’ll be given access credentials which you can enter in and create a Storage Bucket name. Features & Use CloudBerry is wizard driven, straight-forward and easy to use. Here we take a look at creating a backup plan. To begin, click on the Setup Backup Plan button to kick off the wizard. Select your backup mode based on the amount of features you want. In our example we’re going to select Advanced Mode as it offers more features than Simple Mode. Select your backup storage account or create a new one. You can select a default account by checking Use currently selected account as default. Now you can go through and select the files and folders you want to backup from your home server. Check the box Show physical drives to get more of a selection of files and folders. This also allows you to backup files from your data drive as well. It has full support for drive extenders so you can backup your shares as well. The cool thing about Cloudberry is it allows you to drill down specific files and folders unlike other WHS backup utilities. Next you can use advanced filters to specify files and/or folders to skip if you want. There are compression and encryption options as well. This will save storage space, bandwidth, and keep your data secure. Purge Options allow you to customize options for getting rid of older files. You can also select the option to delete files from the S3 service that have been deleted locally. Be careful with this option however, as you won’t be able to restore files if you delete them locally. You have some nice scheduling options from running backups manually, specific date and time, or recurring daily, weekly or monthly. Receive email notifications in all cases or when a backup fails. This is a good option so you know if things were successful or something failed, and you need to back it up manually. Email notifications… Give your plan a name… Then if the summary page looks good you can continue, or still go back at this point if something doesn’t look correct and needs adjusting. That’s it! You’re ready to go, and you have an option to start your first backup right away. After you’ve created a backup plan, you can go in and edit, delete, view history, or restore files. Restoring Files using CloudBerry To restore data from your backups kick off the Restore Wizard and select the backup to restore from. You can select the last backup, a specific point in time, or manually browse through the files. Browse through the directory and select the files you need to restore. Choose the destination to restore the files to. You can select from the original location, a specific location, to overwrite existing files, or set the location as the default for future restores. If the files are encrypted, enter in the correct passwords. If the summary looks good, click on Next to start the restore process. You’ll be shown a progress bar at the bottom of the screen while the files are restored. After the process has completed, close out of the Restore Wizard. In this example we restored a couple of music files to the desktop of Windows Home Server… But as shown above you can save them to the original location, other network locations, or WHS shared folders. This can make it a lot easier to keep track of files you’ve restored. You can also access different options for CloudBerry by clicking Settings in WHS Console then CloudBerry Backup. Here you can set up a new storage account, check for updates, app options, Diagnostics, and send feedback. Under Options there are several settings you can tweak to get the best experience for your WHS backups. CloudBerry Web Interface Another nice feature is the CloudBerry Web Interface so you can access your data from anywhere you have an Internet connection. To check it out in WHS Console, click on the Backup Web Interface link…you’ll probably want to bookmark the link in your favorite browser. Note: This feature is still in beta and at the time of this review, the Web Interface wasn’t up and running so we weren’t able to test it out. Performance The Cloudberry app works very well through the Windows Home Server Console. The amount of time it takes to backup or restore your data will depend on the speed of your Internet connection and size of the files. In our tests, backing up 1GB of data to the Amazon S3 account took around an hour, but we were running it on a DSL with limited upload speeds so your mileage will vary. Product Support In our experience, the team at CloudBerry offered great support in a timely manner when contacting them. You can fill out a help request through a form on their website and they also have a community forum. Conclusion We were very pleased with CloudBerry Online Backup for WHS. It’s wizard driven interface makes it extremely easy to use, and offers comprehensive backup choices for your Amazon S3 account. CloudBerry will only backup files that have been modified, so if files haven’t been changed, they won’t be backed up again.They offer a free 15 day trial and is $29.99 after that for a full license. Once you buy the app you own it, and charges to your S3 account will vary depending on the amount of data you upload. If you’re looking for an effective and easy to use front end application to backup your Windows Home Server data to your Amazon S3 account, CloudBerry is a recommended affordable choice. Download CloudBerry for Windows Home Server Sign Up For Amazon S3 Account Rating Installation: 9 Ease of Use: 8 Features: 8 Performance: 8 Product Support: 8 Similar Articles Productive Geek Tips Restore Files from Backups on Windows Home ServerGMedia Blog: Setting Up a Windows Home ServerBackup Windows Home Server Folders to an External Hard DriveBackup Your Windows Home Server Off-Site with Asus WebstorageRemove a Network Computer from Windows Home Server TouchFreeze Alternative in AutoHotkey The Icy Undertow Desktop Windows Home Server – Backup to LAN The Clear & Clean Desktop Use This Bookmarklet to Easily Get Albums Use AutoHotkey to Assign a Hotkey to a Specific Window Latest Software Reviews Tinyhacker Random Tips CloudBerry Online Backup 1.5 for Windows Home Server Snagit 10 VMware Workstation 7 Acronis Online Backup Sculptris 1.0, 3D Drawing app AceStock, a Tiny Desktop Quote Monitor Gmail Button Addon (Firefox) Hyperwords addon (Firefox) Backup Outlook 2010 Daily Motivator (Firefox)

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  • This Week In Geek History: Steve Jobs Demos the First Mac, Mythbusters Hits the Airwaves, and Dr. Strangelove Invades Popular Culture

    - by Jason Fitzpatrick
    It was quite a wild ride for this week in Geek History: Steve Jobs gave a demonstration of the first Macintosh computer, beloved geek show MythBusters took to the air, and iconic movie Dr. Strangelove appeared in theatres and our collective consciousness. Latest Features How-To Geek ETC How To Create Your Own Custom ASCII Art from Any Image How To Process Camera Raw Without Paying for Adobe Photoshop How Do You Block Annoying Text Message (SMS) Spam? How to Use and Master the Notoriously Difficult Pen Tool in Photoshop HTG Explains: What Are the Differences Between All Those Audio Formats? How To Use Layer Masks and Vector Masks to Remove Complex Backgrounds in Photoshop Bring Summer Back to Your Desktop with the LandscapeTheme for Chrome and Iron The Prospector – Home Dash Extension Creates a Whole New Browsing Experience in Firefox KinEmote Links Kinect to Windows Why Nobody Reads Web Site Privacy Policies [Infographic] Asian Temple in the Snow Wallpaper 10 Weird Gaming Records from the Guinness Book

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  • Free SQL Server training? Now you’re talking.

    - by Fatherjack
    SQL Server user groups are everywhere, literally all over the globe there are SQL Server professionals meeting on a regular basis, sharing ideas, solving problems, learning about how to do new stuff and new ways to do old stuff and it’s all for free. I don’t have detailed figures but of all the SQL Server professionals there are only a small number of them attend these user groups. Those people are the people that are taking the time and making then effort to make themselves better at their chosen trade, more employable and having a good time. For free. I don’t know why but there are many people that don’t seem to want to be the best they can be. Some of you enlightened people that do already attend could be doing more though. Have you ever spoken at  your group? Not just in the break while you have a mouthful of pizza and a drink in your hand but had the attention of the whole group listen to you speak. It doesn’t need to be a full hour, it doesn’t need to be some obscure deeply technical demonstration of SQL Server internals, just a few minutes on something that you do that might help other people with their daily work. A neat process that helps you get from Problem A to Solution B. There is no need to get concerned that becoming a speaker means that you suddenly have to know more than anyone else in the room. This is you talking about something that you experienced. What you did, what you would repeat, what you might do differently next time. No one in the audience can pick you up on a technicality. If someone comes out with a great idea that you hadn’t thought of, say “That’s a great idea, I didn’t think of that while we had the problem on our hands. I’ll try to remember that for next time”. If someone is looking to show you up for picking the wrong decision (and this, in my experience, is very uncommon indeed) then you simply give a reply like “Well, at the time we chose that option. Perhaps another time then we would tackle things differently but we were happy with how our solution worked”. It’s sharing things like this that makes user groups have a real value, talking about how you coped with or averted a disaster, a handy little section of code or using a tool in a particular way that you take for granted that might, just might, be something that other people haven’t thought of that solves a problem or saves some time for them. At the next meeting you might get the same benefit from a different person and so it goes on. As individuals benefits so the community benefits. For free. Things I encourage you to do; If you are a chapter or user group leader; encourage someone from your group who has never spoken before to start speaking. If you are a chapter or user group attendee that hasn’t spoken before; speak for at least 5 minutes on something related to SQL Server at any group meeting. If you don’t currently attend a user group; please go along to you nearest one when they are meeting next and invest in yourself and your future. UK user group details are here: http://sqlsouthwest.co.uk/national_ug.htm , PASS chapters outside the UK are found via http://www.sqlpass.org/PASSChapters/LocalChapters.aspx. If you are unsure of how you might achieve any of these things then get in touch with me*, I’ll give you specific advice on getting started on any of the above points and help you prove to yourself what you are capable of. SQL Community – be part of it and make it better. Let me know how you get on in the comments.

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  • What is Quantum Computing? Microsoft’s video explains it in simple language

    - by Gopinath
    Quantum Computing is the next promising big thing to happen in computer science and its going to revolutionize the way we solve problem using computers. To explain the concepts of Quantum Computing to common man, Microsoft released a nice video which gives brief introduction to the concepts, explains the benefits and the work being carried out by Microsoft to make this technology research a reality. Check out this embedded video and visit Microsoft’s website for more details on Quantum Computing.

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  • What’s new in SQL Prompt 6.3?

    - by Tom Crossman
    This post describes some of the improvements we’ve made in the latest version of SQL Prompt. Code suggestions In recent months, the focus of the SQL Prompt development team has been to remove annoyances and improve code suggestions. Here’s just a few of the improvements to code suggestions we’ve made in SQL Prompt 6.3: The suggestions box is no longer shown when there are no suggestions Suggestions are now shown if you continue to type a half-completed word More suggestions for new SQL Server 2014 syntax Improvements to partial match suggestions Improved suggestion ordering As well as improving suggestions, we’ve also added some new features. Select in Object Explorer You can now use SQL Prompt to select an object in the Object Explorer from a query window. This is useful because many SSMS features are available from an object’s Object Explorer context menu (eg select top 1000 rows, design, script as). To select an object in the Object Explorer, place the cursor over the object you want to select and press Ctrl + F12: Here’s a short video of the feature in action. $SELECTIONSTART$ and $SELECTIONEND$ placeholders You can now use $SELECTIONSTART$ and $SELECTIONEND$ placeholders in your snippet code. The code between these placeholders is selected when you insert the snippet. For example, the following snippet: $SELECTIONSTART$SELECT TOP 100 * FROM Table1$SELECTIONEND$ is inserted as: You can then press F5 to run the selected snippet code. For the full list of snippet placeholders you can use, see the documentation. Highlighting matching parentheses If your cursor is next to an opening or closing parenthesis in a query, SQL Prompt now automatically highlights the matching parenthesis: You can then use the SSMS and Visual Studio shortcut Ctrl + ] to move between parentheses. More improvements Those are just a few of the improvements in SQL Prompt 6.3. For the full list of features and bug fixes, see the release notes.

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  • SQL Monitor’s data repository

    - by Chris Lambrou
    As one of the developers of SQL Monitor, I often get requests passed on by our support people from customers who are looking to dip into SQL Monitor’s own data repository, in order to pull out bits of information that they’re interested in. Since there’s clearly interest out there in playing around directly with the data repository, I thought I’d write some blog posts to start to describe how it all works. The hardest part for me is knowing where to begin, since the schema of the data repository is pretty big. Hmmm… I guess it’s tricky for anyone to write anything but the most trivial of queries against the data repository without understanding the hierarchy of monitored objects, so perhaps my first post should start there. I always imagine that whenever a customer fires up SSMS and starts to explore their SQL Monitor data repository database, they become immediately bewildered by the schema – that was certainly my experience when I did so for the first time. The following query shows the number of different object types in the data repository schema: SELECT type_desc, COUNT(*) AS [count] FROM sys.objects GROUP BY type_desc ORDER BY type_desc;  type_desccount 1DEFAULT_CONSTRAINT63 2FOREIGN_KEY_CONSTRAINT181 3INTERNAL_TABLE3 4PRIMARY_KEY_CONSTRAINT190 5SERVICE_QUEUE3 6SQL_INLINE_TABLE_VALUED_FUNCTION381 7SQL_SCALAR_FUNCTION2 8SQL_STORED_PROCEDURE100 9SYSTEM_TABLE41 10UNIQUE_CONSTRAINT54 11USER_TABLE193 12VIEW124 With 193 tables, 124 views, 100 stored procedures and 381 table valued functions, that’s quite a hefty schema, and when you browse through it using SSMS, it can be a bit daunting at first. So, where to begin? Well, let’s narrow things down a bit and only look at the tables belonging to the data schema. That’s where all of the collected monitoring data is stored by SQL Monitor. The following query gives us the names of those tables: SELECT sch.name + '.' + obj.name AS [name] FROM sys.objects obj JOIN sys.schemas sch ON sch.schema_id = obj.schema_id WHERE obj.type_desc = 'USER_TABLE' AND sch.name = 'data' ORDER BY sch.name, obj.name; This query still returns 110 tables. I won’t show them all here, but let’s have a look at the first few of them:  name 1data.Cluster_Keys 2data.Cluster_Machine_ClockSkew_UnstableSamples 3data.Cluster_Machine_Cluster_StableSamples 4data.Cluster_Machine_Keys 5data.Cluster_Machine_LogicalDisk_Capacity_StableSamples 6data.Cluster_Machine_LogicalDisk_Keys 7data.Cluster_Machine_LogicalDisk_Sightings 8data.Cluster_Machine_LogicalDisk_UnstableSamples 9data.Cluster_Machine_LogicalDisk_Volume_StableSamples 10data.Cluster_Machine_Memory_Capacity_StableSamples 11data.Cluster_Machine_Memory_UnstableSamples 12data.Cluster_Machine_Network_Capacity_StableSamples 13data.Cluster_Machine_Network_Keys 14data.Cluster_Machine_Network_Sightings 15data.Cluster_Machine_Network_UnstableSamples 16data.Cluster_Machine_OperatingSystem_StableSamples 17data.Cluster_Machine_Ping_UnstableSamples 18data.Cluster_Machine_Process_Instances 19data.Cluster_Machine_Process_Keys 20data.Cluster_Machine_Process_Owner_Instances 21data.Cluster_Machine_Process_Sightings 22data.Cluster_Machine_Process_UnstableSamples 23… There are two things I want to draw your attention to: The table names describe a hierarchy of the different types of object that are monitored by SQL Monitor (e.g. clusters, machines and disks). For each object type in the hierarchy, there are multiple tables, ending in the suffixes _Keys, _Sightings, _StableSamples and _UnstableSamples. Not every object type has a table for every suffix, but the _Keys suffix is especially important and a _Keys table does indeed exist for every object type. In fact, if we limit the query to return only those tables ending in _Keys, we reveal the full object hierarchy: SELECT sch.name + '.' + obj.name AS [name] FROM sys.objects obj JOIN sys.schemas sch ON sch.schema_id = obj.schema_id WHERE obj.type_desc = 'USER_TABLE' AND sch.name = 'data' AND obj.name LIKE '%_Keys' ORDER BY sch.name, obj.name;  name 1data.Cluster_Keys 2data.Cluster_Machine_Keys 3data.Cluster_Machine_LogicalDisk_Keys 4data.Cluster_Machine_Network_Keys 5data.Cluster_Machine_Process_Keys 6data.Cluster_Machine_Services_Keys 7data.Cluster_ResourceGroup_Keys 8data.Cluster_ResourceGroup_Resource_Keys 9data.Cluster_SqlServer_Agent_Job_History_Keys 10data.Cluster_SqlServer_Agent_Job_Keys 11data.Cluster_SqlServer_Database_BackupType_Backup_Keys 12data.Cluster_SqlServer_Database_BackupType_Keys 13data.Cluster_SqlServer_Database_CustomMetric_Keys 14data.Cluster_SqlServer_Database_File_Keys 15data.Cluster_SqlServer_Database_Keys 16data.Cluster_SqlServer_Database_Table_Index_Keys 17data.Cluster_SqlServer_Database_Table_Keys 18data.Cluster_SqlServer_Error_Keys 19data.Cluster_SqlServer_Keys 20data.Cluster_SqlServer_Services_Keys 21data.Cluster_SqlServer_SqlProcess_Keys 22data.Cluster_SqlServer_TopQueries_Keys 23data.Cluster_SqlServer_Trace_Keys 24data.Group_Keys The full object type hierarchy looks like this: Cluster Machine LogicalDisk Network Process Services ResourceGroup Resource SqlServer Agent Job History Database BackupType Backup CustomMetric File Table Index Error Services SqlProcess TopQueries Trace Group Okay, but what about the individual objects themselves represented at each level in this hierarchy? Well that’s what the _Keys tables are for. This is probably best illustrated by way of a simple example – how can I query my own data repository to find the databases on my own PC for which monitoring data has been collected? Like this: SELECT clstr._Name AS cluster_name, srvr._Name AS instance_name, db._Name AS database_name FROM data.Cluster_SqlServer_Database_Keys db JOIN data.Cluster_SqlServer_Keys srvr ON db.ParentId = srvr.Id -- Note here how the parent of a Database is a Server JOIN data.Cluster_Keys clstr ON srvr.ParentId = clstr.Id -- Note here how the parent of a Server is a Cluster WHERE clstr._Name = 'dev-chrisl2' -- This is the hostname of my own PC ORDER BY clstr._Name, srvr._Name, db._Name;  cluster_nameinstance_namedatabase_name 1dev-chrisl2SqlMonitorData 2dev-chrisl2master 3dev-chrisl2model 4dev-chrisl2msdb 5dev-chrisl2mssqlsystemresource 6dev-chrisl2tempdb 7dev-chrisl2sql2005SqlMonitorData 8dev-chrisl2sql2005TestDatabase 9dev-chrisl2sql2005master 10dev-chrisl2sql2005model 11dev-chrisl2sql2005msdb 12dev-chrisl2sql2005mssqlsystemresource 13dev-chrisl2sql2005tempdb 14dev-chrisl2sql2008SqlMonitorData 15dev-chrisl2sql2008master 16dev-chrisl2sql2008model 17dev-chrisl2sql2008msdb 18dev-chrisl2sql2008mssqlsystemresource 19dev-chrisl2sql2008tempdb These results show that I have three SQL Server instances on my machine (a default instance, one named sql2005 and one named sql2008), and each instance has the usual set of system databases, along with a database named SqlMonitorData. Basically, this is where I test SQL Monitor on different versions of SQL Server, when I’m developing. There are a few important things we can learn from this query: Each _Keys table has a column named Id. This is the primary key. Each _Keys table has a column named ParentId. A foreign key relationship is defined between each _Keys table and its parent _Keys table in the hierarchy. There are two exceptions to this, Cluster_Keys and Group_Keys, because clusters and groups live at the root level of the object hierarchy. Each _Keys table has a column named _Name. This is used to uniquely identify objects in the table within the scope of the same shared parent object. Actually, that last item isn’t always true. In some cases, the _Name column is actually called something else. For example, the data.Cluster_Machine_Services_Keys table has a column named _ServiceName instead of _Name (sorry for the inconsistency). In other cases, a name isn’t sufficient to uniquely identify an object. For example, right now my PC has multiple processes running, all sharing the same name, Chrome (one for each tab open in my web-browser). In such cases, multiple columns are used to uniquely identify an object within the scope of the same shared parent object. Well, that’s it for now. I’ve given you enough information for you to explore the _Keys tables to see how objects are stored in your own data repositories. In a future post, I’ll try to explain how monitoring data is stored for each object, using the _StableSamples and _UnstableSamples tables. If you have any questions about this post, or suggestions for future posts, just submit them in the comments section below.

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  • Agile Testing Days 2012 – Day 1 – The birth of the #unicorn…

    - by Chris George
    Still riding the high from the tutorial day, I arrived at the conference venue eager to get cracking with the days talks. The opening Keynote was “Disciplined Agile Delivery: The Foundation for Scaling Agile” presented by Scott Ambler. The general ideas behind the methodology such as not re-inventing the wheel, and being goal driven, not prescriptive in how you work certainly struck chords with how we are trying to work in my team. Scott made some interesting observations about how scrum is quite prescriptive and is this really agile? I agreed with quite a few of his points on how what works for one team may not work for another. How a team works should be driven by context and reflection, not process and prescription. However was somewhat dubious about some of the statistics he rolled out towards the end. However, out of this keynote was born something that was to transcend this one presentation. During the talk, Scott mentioned on more than one occasion “In the real world”, and at one point made reference to people living in the land of unicorns and rainbows. The challenge was then laid down on twitter for all speakers to include a unicorn in their presentations… and for the most part this happened! It became an identity for this years conference, and I’m sure something that any attendee will always associate with Agile Testing Days 2012! Following this keynote, I attended “Going agile with Automated GUI Testing – Some personal insights” by Jan Zdunek from codecentric on the vendor track. My speciality is test automation, and in particular GUI testing, so this drew me to this talk more than the others. Thankfully, it was made clear from the very start that this was not peddling any particular product (even though it was on the vendor track), and Jan faithfully stuck to that. Most of the content was not new to me, but it was really comforting to hear someone else with very similar experiences to my own. In particular, things like how GUI testing is hard and is not a silver bullet; how record & replay is NOT a good thing to do (which drew a somewhat inflammatory tweet from an automation company when I tweeted that!). Something that I have started hearing around the place, and has certainly been murmuring at work is to push more of the automation coding onto the developers. After all they are the coding experts. I agree with this to a degree, but I personally enjoy coding and find it very rewarding doing so, therefore I’d be reluctant to give it up. I think there are some better alternatives such as pairing with a developer. Lastly, Jan mentioned, almost in passing, that we should consider virtualisation for gui testing for covering configuration combinations. On my project we’ve been running our win32/.NET GUI tests in cloud virtualisation for a couple of years now… I really should write about that! After lunch the second keynote of the day was by Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory,”Myths about Agile Testing, De-Bunked”. It started off well… with the two ladies donning Medusa style head bands whilst they disbanding several myths about agile testing! I got the impression that it was perhaps not as slick as they would have liked, but then Janet was suffering with a very sore throat so kept losing her voice. Nevertheless, the presentation was captivating, and they debunked several myths such as : “Testing is dead”, “Testers must write code”, “Agile teams always deliver faster”. I didn’t take many notes for this because it was being recorded, but unfortunately the recordings have not been posted yet so I’ll write more about this when they are. The TestLab was held during a somewhat free for all time during most of the afternoon. It looked intriguing and proved to be one of the surprising experiences of the conference for me. Run by James Lyndsay and Bart Knaack, it consisted of a number of ‘stations’ that offered different testing problems. I opted for testing a mathematical drawing app call Geogebra, the task being to pair up and exploratory test it. After an allotted time, we discussed issues we’d found and decided if we wanted to continue ‘playing’ to which we all agreed! It was fun! The last track talk of the day was “Developers Exploratory Testing – Raising the bar” by Sigge Birgisson. One of the teams at Red Gate have tried Dev or Team exploratory testing a couple of times, and I was really interested to go to the presentation that prompted that. I was not disappointed! Sigge gave a first class presentation, and not only explained what DET was all about, but also how to go about implementing it. Little tips like calling it a ‘workshop’ rather than ‘testing’ I can really see working! Monday evening saw the presentation of the award for the Most Influential Agile Testing Professional Person go to a much deserved Lisa Crispin. The evening was great, with acrobatics, magic and music. My Takeaway Triple from Day 1:  Some of the cool stuff that was suggested in the GUI Testing talk, we are already doing. I should write about that! Testing is not dead! Perhaps testing will become more of a skill than a specific role, but it is certainly not dead. Team/Developer exploratory testing… seems like a no-brainer assuming you have a team who is willing.  Day 2 – Coming soon…

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  • Mr Flibble: As Seen Through a Lens, Darkly

    - by Phil Factor
    One of the rewarding things about getting involved with Simple-Talk has been in meeting and working with some pretty daunting talents. I’d like to say that Dom Reed’s talents are at the end of the visible spectrum, but then there is Richard, who pops up on national radio occasionally, presenting intellectual programs, Andrew, master of the ukulele, with his pioneering local history work, and Tony with marathon running and his past as a university lecturer. However, Dom, who is Red Gate’s head of creative design and who did the preliminary design work for Simple-Talk, has taken the art photography to an extreme that was impossible before Photoshop. He’s not the first person to take a photograph of himself every day for two years, but he is definitely the first to weave the results into a frightening narrative that veers from comedy to pathos, using all the arts of Photoshop to create a fictional character, Mr Flibble.   Have a look at some of the Flickr pages. Uncle Spike The B-Men – Woolverine The 2011 BoyZ iN Sink reunion tour turned out to be their last Error 404 – Flibble not found Mr Flibble is not a normal type of alter-ego. We generally prefer to choose bronze age warriors of impossibly magnificent physique and stamina; superheroes who bestride the world, scorning the forces of evil and anarchy in a series noble and righteous quests. Not so Dom, whose Mr Flibble is vulnerable, and laid low by an addiction to toxic substances. His work has gained an international cult following and is used as course material by several courses in photography. Although his work was for a while ignored by the more conventional world of ‘art’ photography they became famous through the internet. His photos have received well over a million views on Flickr. It was definitely time to turn this work into a book, because the whole sequence of images has its maximum effect when seen in sequence. He has a Kickstarter project page, one of the first following the recent UK launch of the crowdfunding platform. The publication of the book should be a major event and the £45 I shall divvy up will be one of the securest investments I shall ever make. The local news in Cambridge picked up on the project and I can quote from the report by the excellent Cabume website , the source of Tech news from the ‘Cambridge cluster’ Put really simply Mr Flibble likes to dress up and take pictures of himself. One of the benefits of a split personality, however is that Mr Flibble is supported in his endeavour by Reed’s top notch photography skills, supreme mastery of Photoshop and unflinching dedication to the cause. The duo have collaborated to take a picture every day for the past 730-plus days. It is not a big surprise that neither Mr Flibble nor Reed watches any TV: In addition to his full-time role at Cambridge software house,Red Gate Software as head of creativity and the two to five hours a day he spends taking the Mr Flibble shots, Reed also helps organise the . And now Reed is using Kickstarter to see if the world is ready for a Mr Flibble coffee table book. Judging by the early response it is. At the time of writing, just a few days after it went live, ‘I Drink Lead Paint: An absurd photography book by Mr Flibble’ had raised £1,545 of the £10,000 target it needs to raise by the Friday 30 November deadline from 37 backers. Following the standard Kickstarter template, Reed is offering a series of rewards based on the amount pledged, ranging from a Mr Flibble desktop wallpaper for pledges of £5 or more to a signed copy of the book for pledges of £45 or more, right up to a starring role in the book for £1,500. Mr Flibble is unquestionably one of the more deranged Kickstarter hopefuls, but don’t think for a second that he doesn’t have a firm grasp on the challenges he faces on the road to immortalisation on 150 gsm stock. Under the section ‘risks and challenges’ on his Kickstarter page his statement begins: “An angry horde of telepathic iguanas discover the world’s last remaining stock of vintage lead paint and hold me to ransom. Gosh how I love to guzzle lead paint. Anyway… faced with such brazen bravado, I cower at the thought of taking on their combined might and die a sad and lonely Flibble deprived of my one and only true liquid love.” At which point, Reed manages to wrestle away the keyboard, giving him the opportunity to present slightly more cogent analysis of the obstacles the project must still overcome. We asked Reed a few questions about Mr Flibble’s Kickstarter adventure and felt that his responses were worth publishing in full: Firstly, how did you manage it – holding down a full time job and also conceiving and executing these ideas on a daily basis? I employed a small team of ferocious gerbils to feed me ideas on a daily basis. Whilst most of their ideas were incomprehensibly rubbish and usually revolved around food, just occasionally they’d give me an idea like my B-Men series. As a backup plan though, I found that the best way to generate ideas was to actually start taking photos. If I were to stand in front of the camera, pull a silly face, place a vegetable on my head or something else equally stupid, the resulting photo of that would typically spark an idea when I came to look at it. Sitting around idly trying to think of an idea was doomed to result in no ideas. I admit that I really struggled with time. I’m proud that I never missed a day, but it was definitely hard when you were late from work, tired or doing something socially on the same day. I don’t watch TV, which I guess really helps, because I’d frequently be spending 2-5 hours taking and processing the photos every day. Are there any overlaps between software development and creative thinking? Software is an inherently creative business and the speed that it moves ensures you always have to find solutions to new things. Everyone in the team needs to be a problem solver. Has it helped me specifically with my photography? Probably. Working within teams that continually need to figure out new stuff keeps the brain feisty I suppose, and I guess I’m continually exposed to a lot of possible sources of inspiration. How specifically will this Kickstarter project allow you to test the commercial appeal of your work and do you plan to get the book into shops? It’s taken a while to be confident saying it, but I know that people like the work that I do. I’ve had well over a million views of my pictures, many humbling comments and I know I’ve garnered some loyal fans out there who anticipate my next photo. For me, this Kickstarter is about seeing if there’s worth to my work beyond just making people smile. In an online world where there’s an abundance of freely available content, can you hope to receive anything from what you do, or would people just move onto the next piece of content if you happen to ask for some support? A book has been the single-most requested thing that people have asked me to produce and it’s something that I feel would showcase my work well. It’s just hard to convince people in the publishing industry just now to take any kind of risk – they’ve been hit hard. If I can show that people would like my work enough to buy a book, then it sends a pretty clear picture that publishers might hear, or it gives me the confidence enough to invest in myself a bit more – hard to do when you’re riddled with self-doubt! I’d love to see my work in the shops, yes. I could see it being the thing that someone flips through idly as they’re Christmas shopping and recognizing that it’d be just the perfect gift for their difficult to buy for friend or relative. That said, working in the software industry means I’m clearly aware of how I could use technology to distribute my work, but I can’t deny that there’s something very appealing to having a physical thing to hold in your hands. If the project is successful is there a chance that it could become a full-time job? At the moment that seems like a distant dream, as should this be successful, there are many more steps I’d need to take to reach any kind of business viability. Kickstarter seems exactly that – a way for people to help kick start me into something that could take off. If people like my work and want me to succeed with it, then taking a look at my Kickstarter page (and hopefully pledging a bit of support) would make my elbows blush considerably. So there is is. An opportunity to open the wallet just a bit to ensure that one of the more unusual talents sees the light in the format it deserves.  

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