Sunday, April 25, 2010

Pick of the Week

Do you like cake? Do you like cookies ?

Yuh, well, few don't! So go to this site and see some cool cake. And buy it!!! I just had some of the PrimePoint cookies featured in the gallery, and I'm a fan!

Remember this: Life is short - eat the cake first!


Saturday, April 24, 2010

[Hot news from England]
David Cameron (C) isn't the sure winner of the general election after all! The country is totally fed up with Labour, but Nick Clegg (Liberal Party) is up there with Cameron. A quick primer on party politics in the UK:
  • Conservative ("Tories"). Traditionally the more right-wing of the major parties. Think Thatcher, Churchill, etc.
  • Labour ("Socialists"). Founded around the turn of the 19/20 centuries, first came to power in the 1930s. The 1920s in the UK saw coalition governments.
  • Liverals - now "Liberal Democrats" ("Whigs", traditionally, although the nickname has vanished now). Last in power during WWI, last in coalition in 1974.
In the mid-70s the Liberals almost got into power in a Lib-Tory coalition, but it failed to get sufficient seats in parliant and Labour took power for six months, followed by the disastrous Labour pre-Thatcher government. Certainly in the last 50 years the received wisdom in British politics has been that a Liberal vote has been a wasted vote - a point of view endorsed, naturally enough, by both Conservatives and Labour!

In the mid-70s some polls put Lib support at around 25%; today it appears to be agreed to be in the low-30s! The Libs passed Labour some time in the last month as both Labour and Conservatives have been trending down in support percentages. Traditionally the numbers suddenly resolve on election night with lots of people suddenly deciding not to vote for the smaller party after all, despite their poll answers.

It seems like the Libs may soon hold the balance of power as they so nearly did in 1974. The results of this will be huge. The political system in the UK is described as "winner takes all" - every seat is a separate election and the winner is the winner; the party with over 50% of seats is the winning party, and results are very quickly known - within 4-6 hours of polling closing.

The Liberal Democrat party will almost certainly look for electoral reform in exchange for parliamentary support, as proportional representation would suddenly make their position in politics immeasurably stronger.

So my pick-of-the-month is watching the UK election. It'll be exciting like so many elections aren't, and it certainly beats watching bankers in the euro-zone getting ready to pay billions to bail out Greece.

[Tech Stuff]
  • Just finished a two-week data migration. Worst part: the pain of working with Windows 95 (I skipped Win/9X and went from 3.11 to NT4!). Frustrating part: the way that the documentation had to be written to demonstrate that we had done "it right". The best part: the happy customer!!
  • Hopefully I have another contract coming up very soon, and that'll keep the rent paid, at least.
  • Just finished a course on Reporting Services 2008 from Pragmatic Works. I've seen another of their courses, on Integration Services, and also a number of their one-hour events that they put on periodically at no cost for the benefit of anyone in trouble in this economy. They're very professionally produced, very effectively presented, and chock-full of useful information, explanations, and techniques. I give them an 11 out of 10! Be warned, though: their information density can be very high, so make sure you don't blink!
  • Still working away on the MCTS DBA stuff from Insider Training: there's jst so much to try to get your head around before being ready to put down your $125 for the exam!
  • Going to be assisting a friend in learning PL/SQL in a couple of weeks: after that I might just try for an Oracle SQL Certified Expert exam!

Nothing this week, but next weekend is the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, and we're going, just like last year. Hopefully it'll be sunny but cool: rain's no fun and blazing heat'll just make it miserable.

Well, that's all for now: see you all when I do! To those with new phones: "Text On!"

Life goes on!

[Hot news from England]

Just finished a two-week data migration. Worst part: the pain of working with Windows 95 (I skipped Win/9X and went from 3.11 to NT4!). Frustrating part: the way that the documentation had to be written to demonstrate that we had done "it right". The best part: the happy customer!!


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sometimes Trusting isn't Enough

If you use anti-virus from Comcast - or McAfee in general - you'll have received an update this afternoon. Be careful about installing it, as it's apparently got an error. Please look here for problem and solution.
Personally I use Avast! from Alwil, but the choice is yours.
Addition: Fox News caught up on the story; however, I'm not at all sure how a piece of inanimate code could "go berserk" !

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Back on the Road

Over a month ago I was asked, because I work with SQL Server and because I used to work with a database system called Paradox (think "Access the way it should have been"), to go to a meeting at a pretty well-known company and meet on of their manager. It seems that they found a program with data that they need to have access to, but they don't know how to run the program and/or get at the data. Turns out that the program is a DOS version of Paradox, believe it or not, and the PC it's sitting on is equally old. No problem -- should take a week or two to do. Finally -- a month later -- we get the go-ahead to do the thing, so I'll be commuting about 70 miles daily for a couple of weeks to do the job.

It'll make a nice change from studying for a while, but very soon I'll be back listening to one of Brian Knight's pals from Pragmatic Works in a course on SSRS 2008. Meanwhile the study for an MCTS (SQL 2008 DBA) goes slowly on -- eventually I'll get to doing the exams (I'm almost finished the SSIS stuff!). Studying isn't the most enthralling stuff, but it matters in the end.

I took a few hours off the other day and read Michael Lewis' book about the current recession, The Big Short. This is an absolutely excellent book, and I recommend it to you without any reservation at all. It really offers a clear insight into what was going on in Wall Street from 2004-2008 and how what people were doing, and what they didn't understand, caused the financial crash.

You can get a copy of MS SQL Server 2008 Developer's Edition for just $50. This is exactly the same as the Enterprise version, except that you can run it on, for example, a copy of Windows XP and you mustn't use it for your production system. OK, fine; why do you want it if you're working in, for example, Oracle or MySQL? Well, the SSIS part alone does neat things like give you tools for programming import and export processes in and out of almost any database (I'll probably be using it for import from Paradox), which definitely helps the perpetual emergencies we all get run down by!