Thursday, July 15, 2010

Extended Property Awesomeness

There has been some discussion today on twitter about extended properties. A while back I wrote an article for MSSQLTips about using extended properties to create a Data Dictionary. I really should have included an image of the sample output since it takes several steps to get to the final document. So here is a preview of what the script generates against the AdventureWorks database. I also should have not included “and exprop.class = 1” in the WHERE clause. If you want to get all the information even if you don’t have extended properties, make sure to remove that statement. I have outlined the extended properties in red. You can see that it picks up extended properties for the table as well as the columns.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Seattle or Bust!


I received an email last week informing me that one of my sessions had been accepted for the 2010 PASS Summit. There was a large number of talented people that submitted presentations this year (I would have hated to be on the selection committee). I did notice when I submitted my abstracts there was a lack of Policy-Based Management, and that’s exactly the one that was chosen. Here is the abstract and goals of the presentation.

Enforcing Compliance with Policy-Based Management

As the demand for data keeps growing and security and compliance keep tightening, the role of the DBA has become an increasingly critical part of maintaining compliance within the organization. This session will cover real world examples you can use with Policy-Based Management to ensure you have the proper server configuration and security settings in place along with the appropriate encryption and auditing options for your environment.

  1. Provide a brief overview of the rising compliance concerns in today's companies along with how you can use Policy-Based Management to mitigate risks.
  2. Cover specific ways you can use Policy-Based Management to help enforce proper server configuration, security, auditing, and encryption in your environment.
  3. Show how to create Alerts so you will be notified when violations occur on the policies you have configured.

I am really excited to have the opportunity, and I hope to see you there.

T-SQL Tuesday: Viva la Learning

TSQL2sDay150x150Robert Davis is hosting T-SQL Tuesday #008 this month and the topic is Gettin' Schooled (learning and teaching). I started writing this blog post with two sections; how I learn, and how I teach. I quickly realized that everything in my teaching section, also belonged in my learning section because every time I write something or do a presentation it is always a learning experience. It really goes back to the saying that "The best way to learn is to teach." (Frank Oppenheimer). So, how do I learn?








I spend a lot of time reading. What exactly I read depends on where I am, how much time I have, and what exactly I am trying to learn.


I always have several SQL Server books around; however, I rarely ever read them from start to finish. I generally only read books when I am not around a computer and my focus tends to jump around a lot. For example, if my focus at the time is indexing, I sift through all the books I have and read the chapters on indexing. That way I can get a few different perspectives on the subject, reinforce what I have learned, and pick up different pieces of information from each book. I do however always have a book that I am trying to read from start to finish, but it rarely ever happens.


Blogs are something that I read on a daily basis. I do more of your “scanning the newspaper and reading what catches your eye” kind of thing here. New blog posts are a great way to keep up with what is going on in the SQL Server world. Blogs are a great way to get information about other peoples “real world” experiences. I use Google’s Reader to aggregate all the new posts for the blogs that I follow. If you are not sure what blogs to follow, PASS has a great list to start from here. And yes, all of these are in my feed. The last I checked, I had to do some work to the OPML file to get it to work, so I will be more than happy to share mine with anyone that is interested. Although, there are so many good bloggers that have started up recently, I probably need to update my list also.

Books Online

I use books online a lot. I don’t even want to try to remember every single option that exists for every single command. The nice thing about Books Online is that it is context sensitive. If I am writing a specific SQL command, I can just highlight the keyword, hit F1, and Books Online will open to the correct page explaining all the options for the command. Hitting the F1 key also works for dialog boxes you have open in SQL Server as well. If I am not quite sure what an option means on the screen, I can simply hit F1.

White Papers

White Papers offer an in-depth look into a specific topic within SQL Server. They are definitely the place to go when you want deep technical insight on a certain area. For example, there is a White Paper that covers just about everything you would ever want to know about the tempdb. You generally can’t get that kind of information from books; there’s just not enough room. Plus, White Papers are written by experts that specialize in that specific topic. Until you can find a 100 chapter book written by 100 different authors, your not going to get the level of detail you can in White Papers. You can find a great list of White Papers here. You can also find several good White Papers on the Microsoft Certified Master Pre-reading list.


I use iTunes to subscribe to podcasts that are related to SQL Server. I also try to catch as many live webcasts as I can. Since webcasts are usually around an hour, I don’t make time to go back and watch them unless I am researching a specific topic. MidnightDBA and Steve Jones both have good podcasts. I also try to catch a webcast from SQLLunch or one of the PASS Virtual Chapters when it fits in with my schedule.


There is a world outside your desk. Get involved. Other people are having the same issues you are. Some people can help you solve your problems and you can help people solve theirs as well.


Forums are the perfect place to learn as well as teach. When I started answering questions on the forums, I learned about things I would have never known. I have seen issues that people were having that I would have never had exposure to if I weren’t participating in the forums. You can see several different ways to solve the same problem, so even if you know how to do something already, often times you can find an ever better way.


Now that you have learned all this new information, write it down. Since you are writing it down, you may as well write it where other people can take advantage of it. When I started my blog it was mainly a place for me to store some things online where I could easily access it from anywhere. It was really just some scripts with hardly any explanations. I have gone back and cleaned up some of those old posts, so hopefully other people can take advantage of some of it. I also started writing for websites like MSSQLTips and SQLServerCentral because it reaches a wider audience, hence more people can benefit from the material.

Asking for Help

#SQLHelp that is. If you don’t have a twitter account, go get one and start following a bunch of DBA’s. I was reluctant to get a twitter account, but I am really glad I did. It’s like standing around the water cooler with a bunch of techno geeks. Sometimes the conversation is serious and sometimes not so much.

User Groups

I like to go to User Group meetings. You can find a list of all the PASS Chapters here. When I lived in Georgia, there really wasn’t a User Group close enough for me to attend, so I started one. Even though I have moved, they are still having meetings. Your Local User Group is the perfect way to you to start presenting as well. User Groups are always looking for presenters and more than happy to hand over the podium to one of the locals. Presenting is another one of those win/win situations where you gain experience by helping other people.


Finally, I try to keep on top of the latest features or just features I am unfamiliar with by installing the Developer Edition of SQL Server on my computer. I need a place I can mess around with the features where I don’t have to worry about making mistakes. Most of the times production issues and projects help keep me up to speed, but I still have to go out of my way to learn and get some hands on practice with the new features.


This whole post can easily be wrapped up in three words - Connect, Share, and Learn.

Monday, July 12, 2010

And the Winners Are…

In case you were unaware, I (along with several other MVPs) had a contest to give away three MSDN Ultimate subscriptions. There were three different ways to enter. One was to send a tweet, one was to write a blog post, and one was to send the name of an article from the PASS website. I saw a some new twitter accounts and got a few emails from people like the following…

“I have joined PASS; thank you for introducing me to the PASS.”

“I am now a member of PASS :)”

So I am pretty happy with the results.

Thanks to a suggestion from Aaron Nelson (@SQLVariant), I was able the use the following line of PowerShell code to pick the winners.

Get-Content C:\FileName.txt | Get-Random

3145658250_6d9e638c1b_mIt’s a Major Award!

Without further ado, the winners are…

Ashley Burton (@lazywriter) -

Samson Loo (@sqlsamson)

Christopher Kusek (@CXI)

Congratulations to the winners! I hope they get some good use out of the subscription.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Getting Things Done (Six Months Later)

It has been about six months since I have finished the book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. This is one of those books that is best to look back on to see what worked and what didn’t. There are a lot of good methods in this book, and I think many people get a lot of value out of several different areas. I at least gave most of the ideas in the book a chance, and here is what has (and hasn’t) worked for me.

What Worked

Lists. The single best thing I took away from this book was making several different lists. Every time I have an idea, whether it be long term, short term, or ASAP. I put it on a list. He even suggests a “Someday Maybe” list of things you would love to do one day, but you know it’s just not gonna happen now. I use the Tasks functionality in gmail and the gTasks application on my android phone that keeps the two lists in sync.

I keep a list of things such as…

Article Ideas – I use this list to keep up with articles I am writing. Most of them are for, but if they don’t fit into that category, I just make a note.

Goals – I have this broken into sub lists like Professional, Financial, Personal, etc.

Next Action Items – These are one off things that I can do right away. They really don’t have dependencies on other things. This can be anything from a book I want to read to calling the insurance company.

Projects – I use this list for personal projects that have more than one item that needs to be checked of in order to be completed.

Someday Maybe – This is that pie in the sky list I keep where if there were no constraints on time, money, etc. I just might want to do.

What Didn’t Work

Inbox Zero. I tried it. I hated it. I created the appropriate folders and everything. I even started a new job, so that made it even easier. I think with the search functionality and sorting capabilities of email programs, I just get along better with organized chaos. This may not be the case for you, a lot of people love the Inbox Zero method. It just seems to be more trouble to me that it’s worth.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

MSDN Ultimate Subscription Contest

If you have been meaning to get a Twitter account, start a blog, or join Pass, but have been putting it off, don’t wait any longer. I have three MSDN Ultimate subscriptions to give out, and I thought it was a good chance to raise awareness on some of the things that have helped me through the years. Since I have three cards, I came up with three ways you can enter to win. Each of the following will get your name thrown into a hat; if you do all three, you get three chances to win. I will announce the winners on July 12th.


Send a tweet using the hash tag #MSDNGiveaway with a link to this article.

Don’t have a twitter account? Easy go sign up at

Don’t know anything about twitter? Go download Brent Ozar’s free ebook at


Write a blog post about one of your favorite SQL Server features and make sure you link it here in the comments. It could be your favorite script, short cut, whatever.

Don’t have a blog? Go get one. There are plenty of free blog sites out there.

Member of Pass

Finally, show that you’re a member of PASS by sending me an email (kensimmonsii at gmail dot com) with the name of one of the technical articles located here

Can’t see the name of any of the articles? Create an account.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Book Review: Confessions of a Public Speaker

Since I have started doing more presenting lately, I thought it would be worth my time to read a few books on the subject. First up was Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun (@berkun). As a side note, if you already have one of Scott's books, he is having a contest now and you could win $100 Amazon gift card as well as a signed copy of a new book.
My verdict? Go buy the book. It’s a good read. It has a lot of funny stories and good tips from a guy that does presentations for a living. If you are thinking about doing a presentation or already presenting, this book has something to offer.
It really enforced the fact that I need to practice more for my presentations. Just because people say your presentation was great, doesn’t mean it really was. There is a funny story in the book about this by the way. On the flipside, I learned that sometimes you are the only one in the room that thought your presentation bombed, because you were the only one that knows what was supposed to happen. That’s a good thing to keep in mind because normally things don’t always go exactly as planned.

I also bought Presentation Zenand Presentation Zen Designby Garr Reynolds in order to beef up my slide decks. I am currently finishing the last of the Presentation Zen books, so I will summarize my thoughts on those two in a later post.