Insufficient data from Andrew Fryer

The place where I page to when my brain is full up of stuff about the Microsoft platform

August, 2009

  • Vision on – Windows 7

    As I’ve said before I’m a bit unsure about whether IT Pros have the time or inclination to watch technical videos.  With our shortened attention spans and demands on our time I am very sure that watching an hour long or even half hour video is going to be watched very often.

    So James and I cam up with a cunning plan to use my drawings and his deeper knowledge of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 to make …er..  some more videos.  However to make these much more useful we have taken a chainsaw to our demos and hyperlinked them all together on YouTube.  All you need to do is click on what interests you and when you’ve finished just go back up the menu.

    The start video is here..

    This isn’t going to cover anywhere as much detail as you’ll get by coming to the UK launch event at Wembley on 6th October so you should try and make time to get to that if you can by following these links.

    imageRegister Now

    Finally thanks to Tony Hart and Vision On for the inspiration to take up art and Microsoft SongSmith for the royalty free music!

  • Windows plays Wembley 6th October

    I am part of a small team preparing for the launch of Windows 7, its big brother Windows Server 2008 R2 and Exchange 2010 on 6th October at Wembley stadium.  I volunteered to be the producer as I am not presenting, and this essentially means that I’ll get the blame if you don’t have a great event.

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    We have a server track and a desktop track with 45min – 1 Hour sessions from the top Microsoft UK experts who are working with the customers who are already deploying Windows 7 etc.   

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    Demand is going to be high for this as and even with 1400 or so places available you really need to register now if you want to attend..

    Register Now

    See you there!

  • SQLBits Goes West 19-21 November, Newport

    When I am not doing the day job I like to draw and paint to relax so I have combined a bit of business & pleasure for the SQL Bits Goes West  conference by doing a few cartoons for them…

    SQLBits V Training DaySQLBits V SQL 2008 & R2 DaySQLBits V Community Day

    As you can see the event has grown to three days. While there has always been a deep dive, paid for training day, there is now a  paid for day (the cost depends on how early you register) specifically for SQL Server 2008 and R2. 

    I am expecting to speak on the 2008/R2 day specifically on Report Builder 3, but I imagine the main draw will be Donald Farmer, who is not only a very engaging speaker he is also pretty much Mr BI in the Microsoft product team.  The organisers have also managed to persuade Thomas Kejser of the SQL Customer Advisory Team (SQLCAT) to present as well and so you can be assured of some deep technical content.

  • Installing the SQL Server 2008 R2 August Technical Preview

    I see a lot of comments on Twitter making comments about how hard SQL Server is to install and so I thought I would go through a simple installation based on the August Technical Preview, SQL Server 2008 R2.  I also used the latest operating system Windows Server 2008 R2

    We are also having a debate internally about the relative usefulness of videos & blogging and so my walkthrough is available in three formats

    I can easily look at the numbers of hits against each of these links but some comments about what format you prefer to  consume technical information would also help.

  • Pimp your Laptop/Netbook

    A simple top tip I got form James O’Neill to get a bit more oomph out of your laptop is to ram in a an SD Card for ready boost when you’re not loading up your photographs.  This feature came in with Vista and is still there in Windows 7, and is a caching technology to service random disk reads. It’s smart enough to realise you’re using a large file and wlil go straight to disk for this as flash type devices are typically slower than normal disks for sequential access.

    If you haven’t got AutoPlay enabled then right click and select AutoPlay..

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    Select Speed up my System

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    Dedicate it to Readyboost..

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    and your done.

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    and as you can see it’s in now showing full.  BTW I saw a 2x pack of SanDisk memory for £12 in Tescos at the weekend. 

    James also reckons this works well for hibernate as well if you have a large enough card.  I like the idea of using an SD card because it doesn’t project out of the machine and doesn’t take up a valuable USB port.  I also notice that on some netbooks their are two SD slots possibly because the manufacturers have foreseen this.

    Embarrassingly my other top tip is to wedge a bit of cardboard under your  DVD drive bay to stop the huge noise it makes when playing a film DVD!

  • SQL Server 2008 R2 August Technical preview Installation Guide

    I have decided to install the SQL Server 2008 R2 August technical preview (aka CTP2) on Windows Server 2008 R2.  On this new OS there is a specific role the application sever role that you should setup before installing SQL Server

    win approle 1

    This role adds in the .Net framework 3.5 sp1 that SQL Server needs as you can see in the dialog that pops up when you select it

    win approle 2

    If you’re using another OS, then the SQL Server installer will branch out and start to install this. In my experience this can take nearly as long as the SQL server install and cause at least one reboot, after which you will need to restart the install. 

    I have already pulled down the install using my TechNet subscription and on running this for the first time I got an error ..

    install a

    when I ran the install again this went away to bring up the SQL Server Installation Center which came in with SQL Server 2008

    install error

    Like a lot of Microsoft dialogs, the sequence of steps is shown on the left and the step you are at is shown in bold, in this case the Planning step. This starts what seems like an endless chain of checks ..

    install c setup support rules

    but I think this is a much better way of doing things than for the installation to fail halfway through and leave your environment in a confused state. This first set of tests is to make sure the install itself will run OK and in my case all is well.

    On Clicking OK I get the inevitable license screen

    install d product key

    the technical preview doesn’t need a key so we can continue by installing the setup support files

     install e setup support files

    Now we get to the actual installation step screen in the sequence.

    install b

    Being in impetuous evangelist I am going straight for the top option, New “SQL Server standalone installation..” when I click next the installation does another set of checks to ensure that there aren’t any potential issues wiht installing SQL Server itself e.g. incompatible products (e.g. SQL Server won’t install on a domain controller).

    install f setup support rules2

    I have one alert here, which turned out to be because I don’t have an internet connection, so I ignored it and clicked next.

    install g feature role

    Now you can see the difference in SQL Server 2008 R2 for the first time; there is now an option to install analysis services in integrated mode. I can’t do that at the moment as I can’t share any information about SharePoint 2010 for the time being.  and so I am going with the default, SQL Server Feature Installation.

    install h install options

    Now I can choose which bits of SQL Server 2008 R2 I want to install. This selection then allows the installation process to work out which rules to apply to establish whether these features will install successfully install i install rules report

    i.e. this set of checks relates to whether what I have selected can be installed properly.  All is well so now I can configure how SQL Server is to be installed..

    install j instance config 

    Instances are separate installs of SQL Server. For example I have had an instance of SQL Server 2000, alongside, 2005 and 2008 all on the same box and you can also install the same versions multiple times – a common reason to do this is to isolate security because some applications demand to have sys admin rights which you might not want to give across all your databases.

    Anyway I am going for the default instance and clicking next confirms check the disk space requirements…

    install k disk space 

     

    I only have the one disk and it has enough space. Now I am asked about collation and for the service accounts which will run the various components of SQL Server..install l services and accounts

    I am leaving the collation as the default, and for the service accounts I have picked a basic low privilege local account NTAUHORITY/Network Service.  If your machine is domain joined then you should use a low privilege account on the domain that or domain administrator will create for you.  and if that’s you then it needs the act as part of the operating system and have the logon as a service privileges. This can easily be changes post installation if need be.

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    Now I can set the way the database engine is to be setup and the most important thing here irrespective of the host operating system is to ensure I can login to SQL Server post installation and to do that I can select “add current user” to add myself!.

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    I am also going to select mixed mode authentication which means that SQL Server will accept windows logins and also use its own internal authentication mechanism, which means that you also need to specify the internal sys admin account password.  This should be a strong password or passphrase (e.g. a sentence like “I love SQL Server”) and for added security you can change the name of this account post installation as per my post here.

    Next I want to check where SQL Server will store it’s data by clicking on the data directories tab..

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    In production you would be putting setting these location across the storage you have available to maximise performance, but I am going with the defaults as I only have the one drive

    I have asked for analysis services to be installed and so I get a similar screen for how that’s going to be setup..

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    again you should add yourself with the “add current user” button. Note there is also a tab for setting where analysis services will store its databases which need to be set if you don’t want everything on your C drive

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    I also asked for reporting services so I also have to configure that. I just need it in native mode and I am happy for the installer to set it up for me.

    Next I am asked to participate in reporting errors back to Microsoft

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    as I work for them I have checked yes but even if I didn’t I would select these as it does help improve SQL Server in an anonymous way.  There is then a final rule check which picks up the options I have selected and establishes they are viable e.g. I haven’t selected a FAT32 volume for my data..

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    Finally I get an opportunity to review what I have selected..

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    and now the installation proper can start..

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    Finally at the end of the process you get an installation report and some resources to use which I have expanded out..

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    To wrap up, installation in SQL Server 2008 R2 is pretty much the same as SQL Server 2008.  They both have  a lot of steps and while this looks complicated each of them fits into a logical flow (like all the testing) to ensure that what is installed actually works.

      A couple of other things to note are:

    • There would be fewer steps if I just wanted to install the db engine or analysis services for example.
    • You can install SQL Server from the command line and automate the whole process if you have to do this regularly.  The resources for this are on TechNet here and you may also wish to check out the FineBuild utility on codeplex from my good friend Ed Vassie
  • Microsoft Security Development Lifecycle(SDL)

    While all of us IT Professionals work hard to make the infrastructure as secure as possible, we largely have to live with the security we are given, be it in the operating system, attendant drivers, or applications.,

    Of course it’s developers who create all of this software, and while this skill has not been on my CV for ten years I was interested in how security is baked into software like SQL Server 2008 and Windows. So  armed with a video camera I button-holed Glenn Pittaway, Group Program Manager of the Security Development Lifecycle (SDL) in Microsoft..

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    The SDL methodology is now at the core of all development work that has an internet facing element (i.e. virtually everything!) at Microsoft. You might argue that this gives this gives Microsoft developers an edge over the competition as they can write more secure code more quickly, however these same SDL resources are also publicly available.

    Why?

    Because security is only as good as the weakest link and because a user simply isn’t interested in the detail they just want to work, shop, search and love.  For example I saw that Adobe was having some issues with the alerts around updating applications based on AIR.  You would think this would cause a bit of mirth  amongst my fellow Micrsofties when in fact we would rather help Adobe resolve these kinds of issues so that security gets taken out of the equation to decide on what application to run and make Windows as safe and secure as possible.

    So if you work with those developer types can I suggest that you point them to my 12 minute SDL video if they aren’t using it already, so that their stuff isn’t the weakest link in your organisation.  

  • SQL Server 2008 R2 CTP1 released

    The first publicly available technical preview of SQL Server 2008 R2 has just been released to TechNet / MSDN subscribers.  As with the development of SQL Server 2008 each successive CTP will have more features in.

    This CTP’s main feature is the Report Builder 3, and also included multiple machine management and support for 256 cores (which need Windows Server 2008 R2 as well).

    So no Gemini preview this time around, which is partly due to the dependency on Office 2010 which hasn’t yet been made the subject of a beta as yet.

    I haven’t seen this beta on our internal shares so I will be downloading really soon to see whether what has happened to Report Builder myself!

  • Making MDX interesting

    Chris Webb MVP can, to quote a friend of mine can, “Make MDX sound interesting”.  I have to say when I first when on a course on MDX the tutor went for the “Make MDX confusing and boring” approach.

    Chris has recently coauthored a book on Expert Cube Development with Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Analysis Services with Marco Russo and Alberto Ferrari who are the experts on many to many fact tables and run SQLBI.  I mention this not because they sent me free copy (but thanks anyway!) but because it fills a huge need for anyone wanting to jump into the fascinating world of the cube. 

    What bought this home to me was a conversion with a small developer outfit last week who were trying to get some telemetry together to measure energy efficiency.  They are very competent developers and understood their data well. But they had a brief from the client to provide an excel analysis capability of that data and didn’t really know what how to go about doing this.

    I could direct them to the 2 Kimball books on my blog bookshelf, but this new book gives you the practical advice on implementing Kimball (and Immon as well) into real cubes that not only give users the insight they need but are fast and easy to maintain. So my advice to Marcus will now be to splash out on this book.

    The only problem I have with the book is that the “Expert” in the title may put off the newbie to BI. In fact I think this book is even better for them as it helps get a BI project get off to a good start which is then developed in the book as it dives into the dark corners of MDX, many to many fact tables, partitions etc.

    While I am on the subject of Chris Webb, he’s also one of the organisers and speakers at SQL Bits, so you might want to register for the next event in Newport on 19-21st November.

  • You get a lot more than you pay for

    Microsoft’s approach to stuff is to ship the basic product as part of a license and then provide you with lots of other add-ins, packs, resource kits and so on which are all free to use on top of what you just paid for e.g.

    • Windows has the Live platform which gives you basic photo editing (Live Photo Gallery) , a really good off-line blogging tool (Live Writer) and e-mail client and there's a free consumern orientated anti-virus tool to come.
    • Office puts out several add-ons under the office labs banner
    • SQL has a feature pack and the upgrade advisor which you download separately

    This is good for IT professionals, because it doesn’t clutter up the operating system/ application with stuff you don’t need, it's good for Microsoft and the IT Professional, because  these can be continually updated and enhanced independently of the application. The only downside is that you need to know where to find these extras and install them seperately.

    Sometimes it’s not the add-on or gadget you need it’s simply knowing how to make the best of the product, so you need to know where to find the virtual labs or the relevant whitepapers.

    To make all this a little easier Alex Ball has created a special page on TechNet with all this on..

    We hope it’s a definitive list, but if you find something we’ve missed please let us know - we are only human.