Looking back at my first lightning talk

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I had the opportunity to speak at the PASS Summit 2017 with a lightning talk.

This was the first time I ever did a lightning talk and it was different than a normal session.

It all boils down to the fact that you only have about 10 to 15 minutes for the entire talk.
This brings a couple of complications because suddenly you have to make sure your content fits within that time frame. You also have to make sure with the amount of content that you don’t go too fast. Going to too fast in a lightning talk is disastrous because attendees will not be able to follow you.

I normally do 60 minute sessions where I have the time to send to dig a little deeper than originally planned.

So how can I do such a short session and still make sure that the audience gets a bang for their buck?

After thinking about it I made a couple of steps:

  1. Write down the subjects I wanted to talk about
  2. Make the content for the subject and made sure it was short and to the point
  3. Present the content out loud and record it

During the recording I would watch the timer in PowerPoint to see when I would hit the 10 minute mark.

If I had gone over I would go into the content again and try to adjust it.
If I made it within those 10 minutes I would watch the recording and pay attention to how fast I was talking. I had to adjust multiple times to make sure I wasn’t going too fast.

After a couple iterations I was satisfied with the preparation and I could go into the presentation with confidence.

How did the session go?

This was actually really funny. I noticed on my itinerary for my flight that I would have to leave to the airport before 10:00 AM. The lightning talk sessions were from 9:30 AM to 10:30 AM so I had to make sure I was the first one to present because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to make it to my flight.

Fortunately the other presenters were so kind to let me go first and I thank them for it.

Because I prepared this session pretty well everything went smooth. I was able to do my talk and show some a couple of demos and finish within the 10 minute frame.

A couple of weeks later I got the feedback from several people from the audience and I was excited about that. Lots of people liked the content and the overall session so that was a big win for me.

Conclusion

Looking back this was a very good experience for me. I find doing a lightning talk is way more difficult than a normal session. It all comes down to preparation and placing yourself into the audience.

If you attended the lightning talks as PASS Summit 2017, please leave a comment because I’d really like to know your opinion about what went well and what didn’t. There is always an opportunity to learn and I like to get better with every session I do.

 

Pretty up your KeePass

It's So Beautiful
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Having a password manager these days is almost required especially for people working in IT. One password manager that I’ve been using for years is KeePass. You can secure the database with a master password and additionally (and recommended) create a key file.
You can create folders to differentiate the entries and it has a ton of features to make password management easy.

To make things even easier several browsers like Firefox and Chrome support using KeePass to handle passwords for websites.

If you don’t already have some sort of password manager, and I don’t mean the Post-Its you have on your monitor, I would tell you to at least give it a try. There are other solutions out there but this one is free and has made my life a lo easier.

So back to the original subject, prettying up KeePass. You might have noticed when you use KeePass that you can assign different icons to an entry.

Entry Details

And when you click the icon button you can select many standard icons.

Icon selection

KeePass makes it possible to add a custom icon and save it into the database. You don’t have to have the icons available on your computer.

As you may see in the image above I also have a selection of custom icons that I’ve added for my entries. In example I have an entry for LinkedIn for which I have the official icon for.

These days almost every bigger companies website has it’s logo in the top bar of the browser. That’s called a “shortcut icon”. Most websites have them named like “favicon.ico” or something similar.

If you open the code of the website and look for the i.e. shortcut icon you will get an URL that points to the icon. Copy the URL, open the password entry, click the icon button, click the add button for custom icons and paste the URL into the filename textbox.

Add new icon

Click the “Open” button and give it a couple of seconds to get the icon file downloaded and imported into the database. After the import of the icon it’s selected in the icon picker window. Click “OK” and you’ll see that your entry has it’s own icon.

Icon selection result

Now what are you waiting for, go pretty up your KeePass entries.

My First Virtual Presentation

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firstOn March 16 I will be presenting my first virtual session for PASS and I’m really excited!

The session is called “Documenting SQL Server with PowerShell”.

The abstract:

Documentation is mostly overlooked and only comes up when a problem arises. What if you’d have a tool or method to generate documentation for all your database servers? In this session, I will show you show how easy it is to use PowerShell to retrieve information from your servers. I’ll detail what can be used to document your servers, how to retrieve the information and what should be documented. In the end you no longer have an excuse not to document your servers.

If you’re interested you can register with the link below and I’ll see you on March 16th on the PowerShell Virtual Chapter.

Registration URL: Documenting SQL Server with PowerShell
Webinar ID: 153-105-707

 

DBA performance evaluation

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evaluationLike most people I get my yearly performance evaluation but I’ve had the experience that my peers don’t really know how to evaluate me. So how do you effectively evaluate a DBA.

Your manager/team leader/superior has the information from previous performance interviews and based on that sees if you have performed as you should, or under, or above what was expected.

What I found out is that when the IT department doesn’t have a good understanding of the DBA’s responsibilities and possible metric to measure the effectiveness of the DBA (group) the evaluations don’t work.

How are most evalutions done

Your superior should have at least the following information:

  1. Knowledge of the DBA’ s job requirements
  2. Record of classes / training attended throughout the year
  3. Attendance records
  4. Productivity reports
  5. Records of previous performance interviews

You and your superior come together and based on the information above your superior shows how you performed.
In most cases you only have little room for discussion because most things are already discussed in previous interviews.

The problem

The problem is that there are so many factors that make this so difficult. A few questions that come to mind are:

  1. There are many different types of DBA’s, which one is used for evaluation
  2. What are the metrics to measure the performance and effectiveness on
  3. When is a DBA successful and and when is his/her performance good/medium/bad

The problem with this is that most managers I had (don’t get offended if you’re one of them this is just my experience) only look for certain aspects that can be found in other IT related jobs like how many incidents you solved or changes that are made.

You can look at the amount of incidents that were registered and fixed during that year but that’s only the case when you talk about real incidents like a server going down, low disk space or performance related problems.

This can be very offending towards other people who could do a tremendous amount of work in the background but is never really visible.

A DBA is a “jack of all trades” kind of person but to clearly evaluate a DBA you have to have a clear understanding what he/she does.

The solution

To address the first question in Problem-paragraph Craig Mullins wrote a nice article about this which gives a good overview of what kind of DBAs there are. Of course there are different versions and flavors especially with the DevOps who are hot nowadays.

An article that helped me out and for most still applies is an article written also by Craig Mullins called “Measuring DBA Effectiveness“. It helped my manager and me to create an evaluation metric.

The last thing, and I surely hope that’s in place, make reports from your service management application like Topdesk or SysAid. The reports give a clear understanding of the workload that’s been done.

To have another metric for the workload I used Brent Ozar’s “sp_Blitz” to create a health-check with all the items that need to be addressed. When an item of the list is done, remove it or give a status done, to keep track about what’s been done. When the manager asks for the progress of the list you can hand over the list.

I hope this helps you out for your next evaluation.

 

Visio Stencil for SQL Server: Updated

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When I look at the statistics of my blog a lot of people seem to search for the Microsoft Visio stencil I once made somewhere in 2010. Unfortunately I haven’t updated the stencil for the new SQL Server versions.

I updated the stencil and created some new objects, adjusted some coloring.

visiostencil_sqlserver

If you’re interested, you can download it from here

Lorem Ipsum feature in Word 2007/2012

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Every webdeveloper or programmer is familiar with the Lorem Ipsum text used to fill up pages or output text.

When I write documents I start with creating the chapters and fill them up with random text. The use of Lorem Ipsum generators makes this easier, but wouldn’t it be easier if there was a feature that did this for you instead of copying and pasting the text from generators?

It turns out that Word 2007 and Word 2012 have an undocumented feature for creating lorem ipsum text parts.

All you have to do is use the following code:

and hit the enter key

After hitting the enter key you’ll have the lorem ipsum text inserted:

The feature has some extending parameter which makes it easy to generate large amounts of lorem ipsum text.

You could do the following to create 5 paragraphs with 14 sentences:

I really like this feature and maybe you too.

DPM error Volume missing

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Have you’ve ever had a Monday where you thought everything would be unicorns and rainbows? I thought I had one this week but unfortunately I got the following error message in DPM “Volume missing”.

My good mood buzz was gone and I was not amused. I’ve dealt with this kind of errors before and I know this can be a hell of a job to fix.

The steps to fix this issue is twofold. First you need to rescan the disks on the DPM server and second you need to rescan every disk in DPM.

1. Rescan the disks on server

Go to Start, click on run and type in “diskmgmt.msc”

Click in the top menu on “Action” and click “Rescan Disks”

Just wait and relax while you see the screen below. When the screen disappears the action is complete.

2. Rescan the disks in DPM

In the DPM Administrator Console click on the management tab.

Click on the tab “Disks” which will show you a screen similar to the one below.

Right-click on the first disk in the list and click on “Rescan”.

Just sit back and relax while the screen below appears.

When the screen disappears repeat the action for the next disk. Unfortunately Microsoft hasn’t thought of a bulk action to finish this task so if you have a lot of disks as it was the case in my situation, get a cup of coffee and start scanning disks for about an hour.

TIP
De details screens below shows the protected data sources  which are present on the disk. You don’t have to rescan all the disks if you know which disk which holds the datasource which failed.

DPM 2010 Administrator Console MMC Will not open

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Recently I’ve been given the task to watch the DPM backups for our customers.
During one of periodic checkups I wasn’t able to load the DPM 2010 Administrator Console. The screen was completely empty 🙁

During on of the many searches somebody suggested to register a dll in the Registry by the following command:

No help here and the problem still existed. I had a lot of work to do and this was holding me back.
Google wasn’t my friend with this problem and after searching for about a hour I decided to give the problem a thorough look.

Let’s try to open the Administrator Console from an empty MMC.
Go to Start, Run and type mmc. Click “OK” or hit the Enter button.
Go to file and click “Add/Remove snap-in”.
Search for the snap-in called “Microsoft Data Protection Manager” and click the “Add” button. Click “OK”.
In this situation this didn’t work for me either.

The DPM Server is installed on Windows Server 2008. The Administrator Console saves a .mmc file in the %APPDATE% folder of the user.
This directory is called “MMC”. I found two MMC folder located here:

  • USERFOLDER\AppData\Local\Microsoft
  • USERFOLDER\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft

I deleted the folder “MMC” because there was nothing else in there than the Microsoft Data Protection Manager.

Just to be sure, I logged out of the server and logged back in. I was finally able to to start the Administrator Console, whoohoo.

Back to work !!