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Not huge on “year end” or “goal” posts.. or is that goalposts? but last year I did a 2011 and Beyond post, so I figured I would do one this year. Of course it is 2 days late, as I was on the road and kind of disconnected from Dec 23rd until Jan 1st. But here goes.

First…How did I do from last year .. I did some of the things, tried to do some of the things, and failed at some of things, expected.

This year? Well..

  • Spend more time with Emily and Ella
  • Lose weight! Failed at this. I used Fitbit (that is another post) and I want to try to do 10k steps a day this year
  • Brew at least 1 batch of beer a month (And try a Secondary, and our own recipe)
  • Utilize social networks and sites more.
  • Learn to cook (tried last year but the class was cancelled?!?)
  • Complete a few awesome projects at work
  • Hit 1000 blog posts (should be easy, I’m at 991 right now)
  • Hit 3+ conferences and network like crazy
  • Keep adding value to MADPASS
  • Get home to Pierz and Chisholm 3+ times
  • Buy a house
  • Get rid of Windows in my house

And there is so much more. So much to do, it never ends. But we can try, and still have fun. To everyone, have a great year and do things you want to do and have fun doing it!


Selling Management on SQL 2012

2012 is going to be a big year in the SQL world. No, the world isn’t going to end. SQL 2012 should get released by Microsoft, hopefully in the first half (cross your fingers for the first quarter!) of the year. Great! But many out there are now on SQL 2005, or 2008, or 2008 R2, some even on SQL 2000 (SP4 – still get support?) but you want to get to SQL 2012. What can you do to make that transition easier? You need to sell the features and benefits, just like anything else.


If you have any kind of clustering environment, or mirroring, or are even thinking about doing clustering, then SQL 2012 is going to be what you want to do. With AlwaysOn, it makes it dead simple to create and manage clusters. If you look back over the versions of SQL, and think clustering, you might shutter. With 2012, things become much easier and management has to see this benefit, as with anything, to make your systems more available with the new AlwaysOn

Master Data Services and Data Quality Services

Microsoft came out with their first round of Master Data Services (MDS) in SQL 2008 R2, but it was lackluster. The interface is clunky, weird, and hard to use. Most “end users” of MDS aren’t going to be that technical. You need something simple, like SharePoint, or Excel. MDS is neither (even though its a weird version of SharePoint). With 2012, MDS is vastly improved and actually something viable where an Enterprise could use it for a Master Data Management (MDM) solution. Couple that with Data Quality Services (DQS) and you get tons of bang for your buck. with MDS and the excel add on, this will be just what the doctor ordered for MDM groups in businesses.

Business Intelligence

Near and dear to my heart of course, is Business Intelligence. What a huge release for BI folks in 2012. First off, a whole new analysis services type, Tabular. Columnar Vertipaq type cubes. Reverse engineer PowerPivots right into SSAS Tabular and then tweak to release out to the Enterprise.

Then the enhanced SSIS stuff, better IDE, better management of packages, and more. Of course the integration with the Visual Studio 2010 IDE is a welcome feature, especially for those of us that also need to work on C# and .NET 4.0 stuff!

But don’t forget the potential biggest thing yet out of the BI tools for 2012 – Power View (yes the space is intentional, not sure why.. but now we have PowerPoint, PowerPivot and Power View). Naming aside, Power View could be a HUGE analytics tool to get more BI out to the people in an Enterprise. First off, they plan on making it work on iOS! Power View works on tabular cubes, so you see the tie in there. The one big thing with Power View, is it just works inside of SharePoint. No stand alone editor. You better have SharePoint 2010 and a pretty good SharePoint admin along side your BI team to get all this stuff working. Some of the enhanced end user alerting in SSRS integrated mode looks nice as well. But once again, you need SharePoint! DON’T for get the SharePoint!

There is much more in SQL 2012 that will make DBA’s lives easier, and BI pros development streamlined. Too much to outline in just one post. But if you are trying to sell SQL 2012 upgrade to management, the “big three” things I outlined above are a good starting point. One thing to be aware of though is that the licensing model has changed in SQL 2012 to core based, so you would want to read up on that.

I’m excited for SQL 2012 bits to hit and I hope you are too!

Weevil on a computer printout

Agile: Dealing with Your Bug Backlog

Previously I wrote about the types of bugs that might come up during a sprint and dealing with them. This post is more on the backlog of bugs your project may “acquire”.

Most software, if not all, has some kind of bugs. They crop up over time, causing users pain, maybe throwing errors, logic errors, but just overall just not letting your software do what it is trying to do.

After a while, you end up with a “bug backlog”. That is, of course, you aren’t fixing your bugs at the same or higher rate than they are coming in. If that is the case, then kudos!, but many applications end up having little nuances/bugs everywhere. Your backlog can grow quickly if you don’t do something about it. 100, 500, 1000+ bugs. What do you do?

There are two main things to do with your bugs. First off, prioritize them. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, whatever scale you want. You need to separate the wheat from the chaff so to speak. You want to focus on the highest priority bugs first. Second, you want to make sure you have some kind of category for your bugs. Screen X, Screen Y, Workflow A, Workflow B, etc. That way, you can hone in on different areas of your application and “attack” those bugs. As an addition, you can maybe set the criticality of your bugs as well, but that isn’t completely necessary to start.

To Repeat: Prioritize and Categorize (and optionally Set Severity).

You should probably review new bugs on a weekly basis or some time interval to keep up with the bugs coming into your system. Some bugs are going to come in that are just end users using the system wrong (I always have Steve Jobs in my head saying “You are holding it wrong” here..) Then you have things you just might not care about fixing. You should close both of these bugs. Keep them in your bug system, but close them, and let the end users know what is up.

Other bugs that come through that are valid, should get the priority, category and severity ratings. You should also look at the existing backlog to see if there are existing bugs that are related or possibly duplicate. As an aside, I wish there were some better tools for doing this automatically, I have done some research and there are actually some scholarly papers on the subject. Maybe some systems have this built in, but the ones I have used havent.

You should try to keep your bug backlog down. Keep it groomed. The only way you are going to do that is to close bugs you aren’t going to fix, fix bugs that come in, and make your software more robust to avoid bugs in the first place. The latter is the hardest, but eventually you are going to have to fix some bugs.

There could be different approaches to fixing bugs. You could take one bug and make it one story, this is perfectly fine. You may take many bugs that are related, group them up and make one story, that works too. You may have a “hardening” sprint and just do bugs that sprint, maybe go the gamification route and add bug fixing bounties, there are endless options, but you are going to have to fix them, for a few reasons: to keep your software in tip top shape, and to keep your users happy.

If you end up ignoring your bug backlog for too long, you may just declare bug backlog bankruptcy. But once you start getting bugs in again, it will grow, you can’t keep ignoring it. It is like never taking the garbage out if you ignore it, it will keep piling up.

In the end, the best thing to do is come up with a systematic way to deal with your backlog, and stick with it. Make it a priority for everyone on the team to be conscious of the bugs and backlog and assist when needed in verifying bugs, finding dupes, entering bugs, fixing bugs, etc. Nobody likes buggy software, and software doesn’t like bugs either. It is a win-win.


#sqlpass 2011 Summit Thoughts

Want to get a quick post out before I forget everything cool I have been thinking about the 2011 SQL Pass Summit in Seattle WA.

The conference started out great with a first timer reception (this was my second year), and I knew a few first timers so that would great.

The first day keynote was good, and then the sessions I hit were on a full range of things, new semantic search stuff with file table, and more.

I missed a couple of sessions on day 1 because I was in a Microsoft led focus group on “BI in the cloud” some very cool ideas thrown out and excited to see what is coming up in the future.

More good keynote on day two, a deeper dive into the stuff in SQL Server 2012 (formerly Denali). Went to some good sessions on Data Quality Services (DQS) and Vertipaq vs OLAP, and Power View (remember the space!) SharePoint and Power View integration, etc. Some very cool stuff coming soon with the 2012 release.

Tabular cubes vs Multidimensional cubes. OLAP vs Vertipaq, etc. Big debates and questions here, when to put things in Tabular vs MDX, etc. DAX solves some hard problems we run into with MDX.

Another thing I went to a couple sessions on was StreamInsight. This is some very cool technology for complex event processing, using .NET and LINQ. The StreamInsight guys are crazy smart. Also integrating StreamInsight with Azure, and doing some crazy processing and analysis of tons of data in near real time. I see this technology making a difference somewhere down the road.

Power View was another big winner from the summit. This integrates with SharePoint 2010 as a Silverlight (SL still isn’t dead?) report builder and viewer. Not even sure they are called “reports” anymore, but “views”. You create views and you can interact/edit them in real time. Export to PowerPoint too. These views work off “tabular” vertipaq BISM (BI semantic model) cubes. This technology is going to change how we deliver information to the business.

Being able to take a PowerPivot (no space!) and reverse engineer it into SQL Server Data Tools (formerly BIDS – in VS2010 shell) to create a BISM tabular cube and publish to SSAS Tabular instance looks great. Solving problems like crazy snapshotting and many to many and time analysis using DAX looks very useful.

Of course, GameWorks appreciation night was fun, and I found a Mcmenamins (Six Arms) up the road from the convention center, so I got get a taste of Ruby again. Good conversation and times at the Taphouse and around the Sheraton and Convention center was good too. Seattle is a nice city and the weather was pretty good I thought. Another great summit.


Office 365 and Windows Live Messenger Not Working? Here’s The Fix:

Earlier this summer, I moved from Google Apps to Office 365. I really don’t use Windows Live Messenger for personal IM, but log in every once in a while, also Xbox 360 can login. I noticed on live.com when I hit it, the web messenger continually tried to login. Also my Xbox and WLM on my PC wouldn’t login (error code 8100037b). What gives?

Well, I figured it might have had something to do with Office 365 and Lync Online, and I was right. I had to go into Office 365, Admin, under Lync, General Settings, and disable external communication settings. After 12+ hours I could then log into Windows Live Messenger. Kind of a mess if your org might be using Windows Live for IM and then moving to Office 365. Of course your Lync could federate out to WLM, but still, not being able to log in could be a pain


VS 11 Experience

Today I decided to give it a go and install VS 11 Developer Preview (off the USB key I got from BUILD) onto my production machine. Whoa, Steve, that could be risky!!

Yeah, it could, but sometimes you need to live life on the edge. As much as a geek can.

There aren’t a ton of options when installing. The installer looks.. “beautiful” compare to other Visual Studio installers. It installed a few things, then reboot, then some more, then it was done. Easy. But of course, it installed SQL Express (Denali CTP3) which I really didn’t want to install since I already have 2008 R2 developer on my machine. Maybe in the advanced install I could have disabled it, but I didn’t dig through it all. Anyways, I just turned the service off and set it to manual start.

VS 11 is nice. Seems faster. Cleaner. Crisper. I LOVE the code clone feature. Found some good info there. I like the new TFS design (the work items, etc look nicer – almost a fat client version of the new TFS server and TFS azure experience).

The big app we work on compiled and ran, which was good. I didn’t try .NET 4.5 yet, that might be for another day. One thing that does stink about the dev preview is that you lose all your add ons. The VS productivity tools are baked in (at least some? I didnt try them all). But things like Resharper, etc aren’t there so you might be “missing” some things you are used to.

The solution file of the project changed on me, since I opened up a VS 2010 sln file. It added some comments and rearranged some things, but after I closed VS 11 and saved everything, I opened in VS 2010 and it still worked. Checked into source control and other devs with just VS 2010 opened it and it worked, etc. So MSFT wasn’t lying.. backward compatible!

Excited to dig into it more and for the future versions.


Windows 7: All My Fonts Are Italic!

Last week, I uninstalled some software on my Windows machine, a Dell “reader” app. I reboot. Right away I notice something is wrong, all my fonts that were usually just normal Times New Roman or Arial were italic. WTF?

I figured that removing the app somehow also removed or reset my default font’s on the machine. I had someone export out some reg settings and I added them back to mine and things returned back to normal. Attached is the reg file. YMMV. I’m not responsible for your machine getting hosed, or anything related to this fix. Backup your registry, yada yada. win7fontfix

Some apps are just downright destructive when uninstalling. I think back to DLL hell and some of the wacky things that could happen there. System DLL’s removed when uninstalling an app. Just horrible. It seems even with Microsoft’s latest OS, things can still get jacked by a bad app install/uninstall.

I could have also probably went back to a snapshot, but figured I would give it the 10 minute try to fix it approach first. Seems to have worked.


Yammer: Transparency in Enterprise Project Communication

Recently I attended the Gartner Infrastructure and Operations conference in Orlando, and one of the main points they kept bringing up was “social” in the enterprise, how your IT Ops groups can use it to communicate, Yammer was at the forefront here (and SharePoint).

I have been a proponent of Yammer for some time. At work, I actually created our Yammer instance back in September 2008. Although it hasn’t taken off as I’d hoped, it has made some people think. Coming from a tech company in MN to a bike manufacturer, you can’t expect leading edge technical things to take off too fast, have to set expectations, was just kind of waiting for the right time to see how we could really use it.

Recently, on a software project we have, I was thinking on how to “up” the level of communication between team members, but also keep things transparent so everyone who wanted to could “drink from the firehose” so to speak. Tons of communication happens on IM and Email, phone, face to face. All those have their place and are needed, but they are all mediums in which people are left out.

Face to Face, usually is more personal and unless it is a huge conference or meeting, not everyone can hear or be there, and things get lost or no notes are taken. Same with phone. Email, things get saved, but people are left off and not everyone is included. Many small questions or items to communicate aren’t even sent to avoid email overload. IM is good for one on one quick questions and information sharing, but once again, it gets lost and isn’t saved for anyone else to see.

In comes Yammer. Create a group, and then say “everything to do with the project, communicate it here”, and see what happens. Well, tons of info comes pouring out. Things that were maybe a conversation or IM/Email between two people are now open for the group to see and other people can add their voice to the conversation, or just be aware of the issue. Things you might previously emailed or IM’d, throw them on Yammer. Is there really any reason any project based communication that isn’t of a personal nature can’t be there for the group?

Start using #hashtags, and you start building a knowledge repository. Upload images, files for more info.

Now, you might say, “Well I am going to get Yammer overload!” yes, that may happen. Turn it into a daily digest instead of emails on every post. Hit the site now and then throughout the day. If you really want to get someone’s attention, @ them and make sure you/they have the setting to get alerting on a @ to them, either through IM/SMS or email.

Things to watch out for? Gotta make sure you dump messages to your group, not the main feed, or you end up clogging up people’s feeds. Also, install the desktop app for a better experience.

Can using Yammer lead to more transparency on your project? I believe it can. Try it out, and see what it does for you.

I find this.. exhilarating.


Lync Configuration Information

Cool tip. If you are running Lync 2010, and want to see the current Configuration Information. In the systray, the icon, hold CTRL and right click, and you will get a configuration information menu. Click that and you get your info

From here you can see your URL’s and if everything is set up the way you want it to be. One thing to note, the “refresh” button doesn’t seem to do anything. You need to close the window and reopen it to see changes.

(As a note, you can do the same with with Outlook, and get to the testing menu to test connectivity and configuration)


Agile: Projects vs Support

One big questions that comes up ALWAYS when doing Agile is: “How do we deal with support requests (or issues, or helpdesk or operations)?”

Well, the answer, as you figured, is … It Depends.

First, it depends on what kind of project or team you have. Are you Development? Or Business Intelligence? or Creative/Design? or Infrastructure? Or XYZ?

One thing to think of as well is how is your organization structured? I went into a dev group and the developers couldn’t get anything done because customer service/support was constantly hitting them up with issues. What do you expect to happen? Magic? You need a buffer. 2nd Level support. Filter the issues so that there is just a trickle into “3rd Level” or Development.

You could even assign one dev to “3rd Level” for a sprint and reduce their velocity. But it always depends on how much is coming though. You want to reduce, reduce, reduce the noise coming into developers. Buffer.

What happens when there are issues that NEED to be looked into (server down, etc, etc). Well. Your “do’ers” need to look into it. You may have to pull out stories if it takes too long. Reduce the velocity. That is just the way it goes. If support issues continually cause you to pull out stories and reduce velocity, you should assess your organization structure, and get a support structure in place.

Big thing with support is this: YOU NEED TO TRACK STUFF. I can’t stress this enough. Bottom line is I have rarely or if ever seen stuff tracked well. This is a killer for your process. Issues need to be tracked for multiple reasons. Why?

Well, let’s look at a scenario or two.

1. Customer Calls Support
2. They work on issue for hours but never track anything
3. They go to 2nd level with the issue but since they didn’t track anything, who knows what was done already and what was changed, etc
4. 2nd level fumbles around for 3-4 more hours doing the same thing, but again, not tracking anything.
5. The issue gets handed off to 3rd level and it is a complete mess since nothing was tracked.
6. In the end, the issue might route back to 2nd level or whatever
7. In the very end, nothing was tracked at all. Even a Category or Sub Category, who the issue was for, what system, how much time, who worked on it, etc.

Now look at that scenario and think if everything was tracked. What if you could pull in all your support issues and Pivot them, slice and dice, see trends. Well, then you can figure out what you need for resources. Pretty simple actually. But harder in reality. People start working on something and run around like crazy and not tracking anything. It is a big problem.

Back to our main problem. Projects vs Support. Another thing everything depends on is this: Who is prioritizing your work? It is a main driver on what you work on. Someone needs to make a decision and say “This is a support issue, do it NOW, or.. This is not an issue, do it LATER, or.. this is part of our project, do a STORY” or something like that.

If the person who should be your main prioritizer doesn’t buffer or learn how to say NO, then everything because #1 top priority and everything you try to accomplish from a project perspective is worthless. Your prioritizer (if it is the Product Owner, your Manager, the Project Manager, whatever) can learn to buffer, and only let through the extra critical support issues to work on now, then you can dedicate 90-95% of your teams time to project (agile) work.

I think the main question of Projets vs Support really throws people off when it comes to Agile. Some groups are doing nothing but support so they are in a death spiral. They need a 2nd level support structure, or hell, even a 1st level support structure.

Teams that are trying to do Agile but feeling the pain of too many support issues, well they need a 2nd level support buffer.

Teams that are doing Agile but have 1st/2nd level support that isn’t tracking a ton are in need of some process control. (more so for resource management than anything).

As you can see, there are always ways to do things no matter what situation your team might be in, but definitely something you need to asess and figure out before you jump into a process.