Because it’s your birthday…

My bestfriend has been BEGGING me to blog again for years now. I’m granting her wish because it’s her 35th birthday. Yup, the 33rd wasn’t reason enough. The 34th almost was…but not quite.

Dear Pauline,

Happy Birthday! 35 sounds so old, doesn’t it? I can’t imagine you getting any wiser or smarter than you already are. Try anyway, will you? Surprise me. (Pauline: “I don’t have to try”)

I always have the luxury to be “just” me because I have you. The best decisions, I made, because you supported them. The worst ones, I survived, because you never said “I told you so.”  Bullshit, of course you did! But you didn’t exactly give me all the time to indulge, right? If it weren’t for you, I would have been content moping through all my bad decisions. Thanks to you–they weren’t that many.

You’re an amazing friend, Pauline. I know you hear that from me all the time. If it weren’t for your bottomless ego, “punong-puno ka na siguro ngayon.” I know I stay out of your way when your teams lose or when you’re being unreasonably reflective. I promise to do that less this year. I’m 12 pounds over my preferred weight, I can take the punches. Or I can always opt to just diet.

Let’s both enjoy the journey towards our 40s.

Luv you bunches. I hope you enjoyed your day!

Hurry up...he's about to eat happy away :)

Hurry up…he’s about to eat happy away :)

SQL Server 2008 R2 Hangs on VMWare Server environment

SQL Server 2008 R2 Hangs on VMWare Server environment: Well, that’s what you see anyway.

Problem: I set up an SQL Server 2008 R2 test environment on a virtual machine using the free VMWare Server 2.0. My guest OS was Windows Server 2008 R2. I also installed VMWare Tools on the guest OS.

I could start SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) without problems. However, as soon as I attempted to connect to the SQL Server, the whole VM stopped responding.

I couldn’t kill the VM without restarting the physical host. I had set up multiple VMs smoothly in the past but I still wondered, was the problem ME? Did I miss to do something during installation?

Solution: Okay, I didn’t want to have to admit this–but I did try to re-install everything. I thought maybe I did a “next-next” and missed to specify some options (that is, clicked through the installation wizard without reading. Nopes, that’s not in the dictionary but like OMG, it may be soon). Good news was, it wasn’t me since I still couldn’t connect to SSMS. I checked the Guest OS’s event viewer. Nothing there.

What finally clued me in was this: Troubleshooting SVGA drivers installed with VMware Tools on Windows 7 and Windows 2008 R2 running on ESX 4.0. It took awhile for me to find this because if you read the KB, you’d notice that it’s not really describing the problem that I was having (it says there “black screen” and “slow mouse performance”). The products affected don’t even include VMWare Server. And lastly, from my perspective, SSMS was the problem–not Windows Server 2008 R2.

Regardless, the problem was the SVGA driver that came with VMWare Tools (weeweeweee!). So I ran the VMWare Tools installer again and removed the SVGA driver.

And finally, the problem was fixed.

If you are encountering the same issue, I’m hoping you find yourself squealing weeweewee sooner than I did.

Is this causing you sleepless nights too?

This is only somewhat related to the main topic of this post…but doesn’t this installer design bother you too?

I see this in a lot of installers. When you check the feature for installation, it changes to this:

Shouldn’t the space requirement be shown BEFORE I even check the feature? #JustSaying

Just another MEME Monday…

“Google if you don’t know. Get yourself googled if you do.”

This is my contribution to Tom LaRock’s (blog | twitter) Meme Monday (Write a SQL blog post that tells a story in 11 words or  less).

I was tagged by one of my favorite girls, Erin Stellato (blog | twitter). So I’m tagging my favorites as well: Donabel Santos (blog | twitter), David Taylor (blog | twitter), and Karla Landrum (blog | twitter).

Yes, baby! I’m back.

Playing the MCM Readiness Videos (on the iPod and Droid)

Ahhh..Thanksgiving. So many things to be thankful for. There’s the traffic-filled 4-hour trip to the in-laws. There’s the Thanksgiving *day* (nopes, it’s just not dinner) of just hanging out with the in-laws. There’s also the Thanksgiving chit-chat with the in-laws of the in-laws. And of course–how can I not look forward to and be thankful for the Thanksgiving “how’s-the-baby-project-going” interview  where, without a baby in my arms, proving that we’re really working hard on having one is more challenging than restoring a corrupt db (yes, mom, we’re already trying so many things–we’re even trying out scrum. So what’s wrong then? Don’t look at me! Ask your son. He’s not, uhm, agile enough. ).

So to make Thanksgiving this year better than the last (and the ones before that), I downloaded all the SQL Server 2008 Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) Readiness Videos that have been posted so far. My (not-so-evil) plan is to grab my iPod or my Droid when things become too err…enjoyable. So while they’re talking about babymaking and all the “challenges” involved in it (and how it can actually be really just sooo easy–”as long as Janice, you don’t stress too much.”)–I’ll just DROID them out and listen to Paul Randal tell me that I’m “spatial”! Ha!

1) Which format do I download?
If you’ve visited the site, you’ll notice that there are different formats available. I wanted to watch the videos using my phone (a Droid 2) or my iPod nano (4th gen, I think) so the links that I was interested in were the following:

Only two of the files I downloaded via the iPod link worked. So I tried downloading the MP4. Most of the MP4 files however would only play on my PC and not on my iPod or Droid. You may experience the same thing so here are some tips…

Tip 1: Use HandBrake to convert the MP4 (or the other video formats) to an MP4 format that your iPod can actually play. You can download the tool here for free: http://handbrake.fr/downloads.php. With the iTunes application (I’m using version 10), you can do the same thing but it takes sooo long and you can only do one at a time! Thanksgiving would be over before you finish. If you use HandBrake, the process is not only faster, you can also put all the files that you want to convert on a queue  and you can just leave it until it’s done.

Tip 2: Now–this really depends on what your in-law tolerance is. The longer you can stand them, the less videos you have to download. :) I for one have a very high in-law tolerance. So–to download all–use the free Download Manager from SourceForge. :) Here’s the link. Just copy the target link of each video and add it to the queue. Leave it running overnight and you’re all done the next day.

Tip 3: When you’re done downloading and converting the videos, just add them to your iTunes library and voila—THANKSGIVING.

To play the files on your Droid, just copy the converted MP4 files to your SD card and VOILA–yep-yep–it’s Thanksgiving again! Ahh..what do they call these things again? Oh yeah…the gifts that just keep giving. ;)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

P.S. To my in-laws–come on, I’m just kidding. Stop being so cranky. That stresses me out–and we don’t want that, remember?

Never skip an SQL Saturday…

The SQL Saturday in Raleigh last weekend was the second one I’ve attended and I loved almost every second of it! Thanks to the Triangle SQL Server User Group for organizing the event and congratulations.

1) There were just enough tracks and sessions to choose from.
2) There was ample time to go from one session to another.
3) The sponsors were situated near the classrooms so it was impossible to miss them. (In SQL Saturday – Charlotte, the sponsors were in another building.)
4) Parking was easy…(it was hard for me to find where I parked my car though–but then that happens all the time).
5) The giveaways were nice. The sticky ball is the bomb! Apparently, it’s not a good idea to throw it to a flat-screen TV. Why? First, because it wouldn’t stick (I tried so many times). And second, I was told that if I didn’t stop trying, I would lose all my privileges. What’s with men and their televisions???
6) It was well-attended, the speakers were awesome,  the food wasn’t bad, and…
7) They hid the donuts! Seriously, LUCKY ME. That would have been another 5 lbs I’d have to lose this week.

Why you should attend SQL Saturdays
This is what the post is all about really. I want to encourage you to never skip an SQL Saturday in your area. Let me tell you why.

1) It’s the best time to get starstruck
Maybe you don’t get a kick out of it. But I do–and I’m not ashamed to say it. I get starstruck when I see SQL Server MVPs, authors, and tweeps. I think I’m innately a fan.  It’s just the way I’m built. SQL Saturdays is like the Oscars–only, it has smarter people. And it’s more fun. Orlando Bloom will never know my name (and I doubt he’ll ever win an Oscar)–but SQL Server authors and MVPs–if you stalk them long enough, they will. :D And they will really say hi!

Anyway, if you’re like me, some stalking tips:

a) Always have a pen when you’re having a book signed.
Or just die from embarrassment your whole life. I had DBA Survivor signed and Thomas LaRock (blog | twitter) had to find a pen that worked to sign it. When I close my eyes, I still remember him saying, “you’re new to this stalking thing, huh?”. So bring a pen. Sponsors give it away–use it!

b) “I follow you!” is not the best way to introduce yourself.
And to follow it with “You’re lotsahelp, right? But I don’t know your name!” is not a good idea either.

Eric Humphrey (blog | twitter)  must have thought I was crazy. And no, of course I didn’t stop talking. I made it worse and said–”You look exactly like you do on Twitter!”. I said it like it was the world’s most amazing discovery. They say kids say the darndest things and man, I wish I had that excuse. He was nice about it though and replied that looking exactly like you do on Twitter is how it’s supposed to be. (If that is the case, I’d probably faint if I see @sqlchicken). :)

c) “You’re sqlcraftsman!” is also not a good way to start a conversation.
I said this and the guy said, “no, I’m Jim.”. OMG–talk about embarrassing.

So anyway, always start with a hello. In a normal world, that usually works best.

2) Learn, learn, learn
The learning benefit is a given. SQL Server is soo big. There’s so much to learn. SQL Saturdays allow you to learn about topics you’ve never heard of (xquery???), learn about topics you’ve kinda heard of (is powershell =  powerpuff?), and learn more about topics you already know (t-s-q-l). You get all these for free. You can ask questions just by raising your hand. And trust me, that’s a big deal. I always try that with my mother-in-law and it never works.

But you must be thinking–you can easily learn  from PASS’s virtual sessions. You can even learn just by downloading the sessions. Or you can just read a book. So why attend, right? Why make time?

One word: CHANCES.

3) Chances
Think of an SQL Saturday as match.com or eharmony.com. It’s a place where you meet people who do and like the same things that you do. And you don’t have to take a personality exam to get in. You just–go. For every session, you get the chance to find someone to like, to talk to, and to have fun with. You just have to grab the chance.

It’s so easy to pretend that the world consists of just your family, your team, and your current set of friends. But the world is bigger than that. And you can be so much more.

I had several surgeries last year. One was so bad I remember asking one doctor, “Will I die?”. And all he said was–”you’re at the right place at the right time.”  (Yeah, he did his best to be reassuring :P).  When I woke up from the surgery (yay! I survived!), I felt lucky, yet, I also felt irrelevant. I started asking, how many people have I helped? How many people have I made an impact on?

How many have I reached out to?

Not too many. I’ve always been too busy.

So what does this have to do with going to SQL Saturdays? If you’re reading my blog, then most likely you are an SQL Server professional like me. I know it’s easy to keep to yourself. But events like SQL Saturdays give you a chance to be relevant. They give you a chance  to reach out to people you can easily have a huge impact on. Afterall, you’re already into similar things!

All it takes is one hello.

“Hello, I’m Janice Lee.”

Every session I attended, I said these words to the person beside me. I left the event with three new friends: Derek who went to Belgium early this morning for a vacation with his wife, Vishal who looked 13 but was really 29 years old and was an SQL Server whiz kid, and Elizabeth who quit her job because she knew what was important to her. I have their email addresses, I encouraged them to join twitter, and I think I convinced Derek to ditch his planner and get himself a smartphone when he comes back from Belgium.

You must be thinking–so what? Well, this is the chance I was talking about. In one day, I just expanded my world and added three people to it. I told them about #sqlhelp and I encouraged them to blog and to be active in the community. I talked, I reached out, and I gave myself the chance to be relevant. You can’t do this in a virtual session. You can’t do this when you just read a book. You can’t do this when you don’t go out there.

I know it takes two to tango. Some people just don’t like to interact so just leave them alone (unless you’re like me who just pretend to not get the message :P). Don’t let it stop you from taking the chance though and from saying hello. Because that one hello can make a difference.

Conclusion
Don’t wake up one day realizing that there’s a world out there–as if that fact wasn’t staring at you every time you opened your eyes. When you get the chance to attend events like this–grab it. And as I said–going to one to learn is a given. But definitely don’t ignore the additional benefits. Make time to attend it, smile, and say hello. This way, you’ll get and learn more than SQL Server. There’s more to life afterall than databases :)

P.S. Shout out to Allen White (blog | twitter) , Kevin Boles (twitter), Tim Chapman (blog | twitter), Grant Fritchey (blog | twitter), Andy Leonard (blog | twitter), and Eli Weinstock-Herman (blog | twitter) who all said hi. And to the guy who sat beside me and gave me the book he won–THANKS! Shawn, right?

And for the wonderful note on my book and all the kind words, thanks to Thomas LaRock (blog | twitter). I was a lost puppy early this year (what an understatement). I listened to your podcast and I found my way home. I’m hoping I can pay it forward.

For more information on SQL Saturday, go to www.sqlsaturday.com.

PASSion

Many, many, many years ago, I wanted to change the world. Call it idealism or just plain naivete–but I really, honestly wanted to make a difference. 

This text is from my high school yearbook. I think the guy who wrote this to describe me wanted to kiss my bacon. :) When he said four-digit IQ, he probably meant .0001. But seriously, back then, I really did want to make the world a better place. That this slowly became a cliche as I grew older is really sad and disappointing.

I’m not writing about the PASS election process. I’m too new in PASS to even have a strong opinion about it. I’m also not writing about Steve Jones. The only direct relationship I have with Steve Jones are his Voice of the DBA podcasts. However, I’ve been reading some articles about him in the past weeks…and, looks like Steve Jones is more than a podcast to a lot of people. These people are not happy about his  exclusion from the Board of Directors election and what’s awesome is, these people are speaking up about it. Passionately.   

In the short time that I’ve been with the SQL community, I’ve seen passion so hot it burns. It reminds me of the days when I actually thought I could change the world.

I’m different now from the girl described above. I’m no longer desperate to make the world a better place. In the workplace, I’ve mastered the art of avoiding confrontations. It’s just more…peaceful. But being part of a community where people stick their necks out for people and ideals despite the possibility of conflict is kinda inspiring. It makes me think it may be possible for me to change the world afterall. Peace can be overrated anyway; I think I can forego it once in awhile for the possibility of something as underrated as change.

Dumbing it down: Why you should verify backups

“Well, I just made a copy of the data files and the copy failed and now they’re corrupt and the backups we have are not valid…and…and now I don’t know what to do and…”

Of Wasabis

Wasabi chips. I bought this last weekend. As soon as I took my first bite…I stuck my tongue out and said–”Ugh! It tastes like wasabi!”

The package was labeled wasabi. It had a picture of a wasabi. Not sure really why I was so surprised. I guess it tasted too much like wasabi. Yeah, yeah…I know what you’re thinking…how else was it supposed to taste like??? I know it doesn’t make sense but the taste really DID overwhelm me. Just saying…

Of Bikinis

Three years ago, I copied a bunch of pictures to an external drive. I actually checked quickly if the transfer was a success after…keyword being quickly. I just looked at the thumbnails and all looked well so I deleted the original images from my laptop. When I opened the pictures last Saturday, half of the pictures looked like this:

I lost a set of pictures with my college friends, a set of pictures with my dogs, and ONE bikini picture (yes, I could actually fit in one a long, long, long time ago).

Of Database Backups

I think some people forget that backups are just operating system files–like my pictures are files, like PSTs are files, and like documents are files. And files behave like files–the same way wasabi chips taste like wasabi. When you move files or copy them or email them or write to them–anything can happen. Files can get corrupted. So when you find your unverified backup files to be corrupted or invalid, it’s not really a question of why it happened–but why is it that you didn’t verify them knowing that they’re basically “just files”? This probably sounds so dumbed down but this is as non-technical as I can make it to be: backup files are files. How redundant, eh?

Instilling Paranoia
Be paranoid. Do verify your backups.  Get started now. Because when you’re the one in charge of the database, whether by accident or not,  you just can’t forget that there’s more than a bikini picture at stake.

Now, really, all this talk about bikinis is making me want to skip these donuts. Next topic please.

More Information
Verifying Backups