Tag Archives: Training

I’m a Fraud

I’m a fraud because I didn’t bust out the query I needed right away.
I’m a fraud because I couldn’t remember the exact syntax to restore a certificate even though I’ve done it dozens of times.
I’m a fraud because a user asked me a question I had to lookup.
I’m a fraud because I still haven’t had time to learn Service Broker.
I’m a fraud because it took me too long to troubleshoot my last PS script.
I’m a fraud because I only study about a half as much as I need to.
I’m a fraud because I haven’t written a book.
I’m a fraud because I haven’t filmed half the new videos on my list.
I’m a fraud because I don’t understand all the ins and outs of SMO.
I’m a fraud because every other MCM and MVP out there is so much smarter than I am.
I’m a fraud because I had to go running to a real .NET guy to have my site rebuilt instead of doing it myself.

And on and on…

See, we’re all a product of the same marketing.  We see all the super smart guys around us and we believe the marketing around them.
Grant Fritchey didn’t have to research anything for his book.  He knew it all off the top of his head. 
Adam Machanic couldn’t write his last book fast enough.  He banged it out like he was signing his name.  And Denny Cherry knew everything for his last security book and didn’t have to look anything up or test anything.

All we see is the final product.  We don’t see the weeks/months of failed attempts, tinkering, research, and begging for help that go into the books, whitepapers, blogs, and videos that people crank out.

Sure, some have to beg, borrow, and steal less than others, but nobody and I mean NOBODY just sits down and bangs out an entire book on the first try.  And nobody writes an entire training course in a single sitting and then just films it.  It takes planning, practice, and experimentation to make everything look easy.  And everything looks easy by that point because it is.  They’ve already learned it.  In fact, sometimes they may have even learned it for the book, or for that video.

This is what’s both good and bad about the way we do things these days.  We have access to so much material there’s just no excuse to not be able to find something.  But at the same time, having access to that much info and that many authors shows us exactly what we don’t know and it’s easy to compare yourself with them and start to feel like a fraud.  And the industry experts aren’t immune to it either.  Trust me, they all do it too.

I always say, don’t confuse your mentor with your mirror.  Find someone in the community you want to be like, but don’t compare yourself to them.  You’ll always lose that battle.  Compare yourself to how you were yesterday, or last week or last month.  Give yourself something solid to accomplish and then do it.  If you really want to learn Service Broker, then make it happen.  Put yourself a training list and start working your way through it.  Then look at your list in say a couple weeks or a month and see how much you’ve gotten done.  Are you a fraud then?  Are you a failure?  Maybe, maybe not, right?

So is it possible to actually be a fraud, or a failure?

Of course it is.  In my estimation, anyone who’s been a professional DBA for 10yrs and doesn’t even know the basics is a complete fraud.  You have to know something about your craft, and you can’t tell me that in 10yrs you’ve never had a chance to learn the difference between char() and varchar(), or how to type a backup command, etc.  If you’ve been doing SQL for that long and you don’t even know simple basics like that, then yeah, you very well may be a fraud and you need to do something about it.

However, if you think you’re a fraud because you’re comparing your on-going process of building yourself to the finished product you see the industry experts churning out, then you just need to compare yourself to the right thing.  Making that comparison is like starting to build a skyscraper and comparing it to the one next to yours that’s finished and just disappears into the clouds.  What you don’t see though is the construction going on on the other side of those clouds, or the remodeling happening on several of the floors, or the bad plumbing.

So keep your head down and build your own tower.  Look to the others for inspiration and guidance, but don’t compare yours to theirs. 

Hey, if you want a really want to see how perfect the experts are from the start, then just ask any of them, and I do mean any of them, if they’re embarrassed by the code they wrote 10yrs ago. 
Almost without exception, they’ll all say yes.

So now it’s your turn… why are you a fraud?

What an idiot!

As DBAs we quite often run into others who aren’t as smart as us.  The dev is an idiot.  The .net guy is an idiot.  The users are idiots.  The manager is an idiot.  The VP, well don’t even get me started.  And other DBAs are really idiots.  At least that’s how it is in our heads anyway.  We fall into this cycle of calling everyone idiots for every little thing they do wrong.  The dev uses a wrong data type and it makes a few queries a lot slower, what an idiot, he should’ve known better.  A .net guy uses EF instead of putting it in an SP and it causes tons of blocking, what an idiot.  Another DBA tries to fix a DB that’s down and he does something that ends up making it worse… what an idiot.

It’s pretty easy to say everyone’s an idiot when we have the luxury of hindsight isn’t it?  Sure, I could have told you that every single one of those decisions was wrong and why.  But could I have told you before you did it and it went south?  Maybe, maybe not.  I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my career (and am dedicated to continuing) that in hindsight weren’t the best option, but was I an actual idiot for doing it?  Again maybe, maybe not.

I just think we jump on the idiot bandwagon too early and too often.  And I know I’m a big offender.  It doesn’t take much for me to start branding people left and right, but I also try to temper it with some reason.  Just because someone doesn’t have the same experiences I do doesn’t make them an actual idiot.  A dev chooses the wrong data type for a column.  Is he an idiot, or does he just not have the same experience with data types that I do?  I’d have to say it depends on what the mistake was.  Did he choose a varchar(25) for Address, or did he choose datetime?  Because one makes him less experienced with addresses and the other one makes him pretty close to an idiot. Well, what if he chose the bit data type for a SalaryAmount column? Well, I can only hope that he’s writing the table his own salary will be stored in.

I’ve seen plenty of things that seemed to be basic that I didn’t know. And that’s becuase there’s just so much to know it’s hard to quantify. That’s why I make sure I interview everyone I see for at least an hour before making a decision. I honestly believe you can’t judge the sum of someone’s experience in just a handful of questions. In fact, I’ve found plenty of guys who got the first 20 questions wrong and then we suddenly got to their area of expertise and they started blowing the questions out of the water.

So anyway, just give some of these guys a break and realize that they may not be complete idiots just because they don’t know something you don’t. That’s not to say there aren’t any real idiots out there. You guys know that I’ve definitely run into my fair share of them. But I’m trying harder to lighten up on them.

Part of the problem is the learning process we go through, which is next to none. Computers are hard. SQL is hard. .NET is hard. They’re all hard. And yet training is so poor. I’ve seen so much IT training I can’t even count, but the number of courses I’ve been in that actually taught the topic is very few. sure, the high level stuff gets taught, but the hows and whys of doing things is rarely covered. There are some guys out there who really take the time to break it down for you, but try to find one of them. One of the biggest reasons I never got into BI is because all the BI guys teach beginning BI like you’re already a BI expert. They explain BI terms with other BI terms and everyone just nods and smiles. But I guarantee you that most of them walk away without a good understanding of what was just said. .Net guys are big offenders in that area too. They explain .Net to you like you’ve been a coder for years and you’re just supposed to know what all this stuff is. So it’s no wonder that so few people really know their jobs well. They’re never taught what they need to know. So are they really idiots for not knowing something they weren’t taught? There are so many things that can go wrong with a system at any given time how can they be sure that the issue is being caused by a bad data type, or by one particular piece of code? There are of course ways to find out, but so many companies are in such a hurry to move on to the next project they never get a chance to dig into these issues. And again, were they really taught how?

So here we are in the middle of the learning revolution and there’s so little quality training to be had. You can go almost anywhere and learn how to perform the steps for a task, but where do you go to learn what you actually need to know? How do you learn that one thing is stupid over another thing, and that other thing exists for a reason, so when is it supposed to be used? I was talking to someone about this very topic just this morning.

So this whole thing was prompted by a training session I had with someone not long ago. Someone did something they shouldn’t have and when I corrected them they asked why. And when I gave my reason he said oh y, I never thought of that. And I could clearly see that he wasn’t an idiot, he just didn’t have the experience he needed. And since then he’s done it right and even did it the other way a couple times because the situation was different. See, I gave him the reasoning so now he can reason out for himself when to use one method over another. And that’s training that’s worthwhile.

To me, a true idiot is someone who gets shown the way to do things right and still refuses to employ them. He is also someone who has been in his current career for many years and doesn’t even know the basics. I have very little patience for say a SQL dev who’s been doing it for 10yrs and doesn’t even know the basics of the data types. Because you can’t tell me that it’s never come up. I also don’t like DBAs with 10yrs behind them who can’t write a simple backup statement. Again, that’s a basic that you should know cold.

T-SQL Tuesday: A file delete exercise

This is my submission for T-SQL Tuesday on Files and filegroups.  You can find the blog tsql2sday.

 

One of the things I’m known for in the shops I work in is giving my DBAs some interesting exercises.  And sometimes they even come with prizes.  This is an exercise I’ve been giving off and on for a few years now.  I typically point them to a test server and send them to the MyDocs folder under one of the profiles.  In there is a list of files that I want them to delete.  Typically the email has similar verbiage to this:

 

I have an assignment for you guys.  I want you to go to the following location and delete this list of files.

And whoever gets to that server first and deletes those files first gets their pick of these 3 books.

 

They always rush to be the first there and I can hear their initial failure one at a time as they find out it’s not just an exercise in speed.  Just for fun, here’s a screenshot of the files I have them delete.

 FileList

About that time I follow-up with another email.  It says:

You’ve just discovered that the files cannot be easily deleted.  The only hint I’ll give you is that I did it by highlighting a feature in the new version of SQL Server. 

Good luck.

 

For a few years now, the race has been whoever could find the obscure setting in filestream the fastest (because they figure that’s the best place to go).  There has to be something in filestream that’s doing it.  So they dig through everything filestream-related they can find.  They dig and they dig and they dig.  They put together some test DBs and do their best to recreate the issue.  I hear all kinds of wacky theories flying around.  But they never hit that magic bullet that makes it all come together (if you don’t mind me mixing metaphors).

It typically takes them 2-3 days before they give up for good.  I’ll tell you something… in the years I’ve been doing this I’ve never had anyone actually get it with no prompting.  So then at the end, we come together and talk about the process they went through to troubleshoot this issue and their reasoning.  They talk about handles and locked files and permissions, and all the new features in SQL Server that would cause something like that, but they’re just not sure because they couldn’t find anything on google and they don’t know the undocumented XPs, etc. 

And as it turns out, this exercise has nothing to do with the files at all.  I mean, it does, but it’s really meant to serve a much greater purpose.  I want to teach them that the customer always lies, or does his best to throw you off track by sprinkling whatever piece of misinformation he has into his request.  And you never know what they’ll do to their systems.  I want to teach them the following things:

  1. Listen to the wording.
  2. Users lie.
  3. Think for yourself, don’t get distracted by what they tell you.
  4. Ask Questions… for the love of GOD ask questions.

 

So what’s the resolution?  Tell ya what, I’ll give you the code to repro it and that’ll tell you what the issue is.

create database UserDB

on

(

name=UserDB1,

filename=’c:\users\sean.midnight\my documents\Master20120105.bak’

),

 

(

name=UserDB2,

filename=’ c:\users\sean.midnight\my documents\BlogPost.docx’

),

(

name=UserDB3,

filename=’ c:\users\sean.midnight\my documents\Expenses.xlsx’

)

logon

(

name=UserDBLog,

filename=’ c:\users\sean.midnight\my documents\LovePets.pdf’

)

 

It’s not always exactly like that, but this is one variation of it.  Now, you may wanna say that I lied, but didn’t.  What I said was that this hinged on a feature in the new version of SQL Server.  But I didn’t say it was a new feature.  It is in fact a feature in the new SQL Server, it just so happens to be a feature of all of them (well, most of them).  And that feature is the ability to create DB files of any name and any extension you like.

Happy T-SQL Tuesday, and I hope this fits in with the theme.

Nothing beats practice

For a very long time now I’ve preached to my various teams the value of doing your 20s.  And I don’t expect most of you to know what that is, so here’s a quick explanation.  I believe there’s certain syntax you should know by heart.  Things like backup/restore, DB creation, working with user accts, etc. should be so ingrained you never forget them.  And the only way to do that is to do it again and again and again.  So when I start new DBAs down their road to discovery, I start them on their 20s.  And that means writing the command you’re working on 20x a day for 2 weeks.  And by the end of the period, you’ve written it at least 200x.  Now, in the case of backup/restore, I typically pick a test server with around 10-15 DBs (I often create empty DBs) on it and make them type the commands for every DB 20x a day for 2 weeks.  And that means that they’re writing the commands 200x for each DB.  And a little quick math tells you that the total they’ve written the backup command by the end is at least 2,000x.  Now, name me something you’ve done 2,000x and have forgotten easily. 

The whole point of this is to give them tons of experience with the commands in a very short period of time.  Innovation and understanding don’t come when you’re struggling to remember syntax and they don’t come if you don’t know any of the options available to you.  So by forcing my DBAs to learn like this, I’ve found that they really start to become competent and ultimately they appreciate that I forced this on them.  And it’s incredible how simple things start getting when you know what you can and can’t do and now that you know how to code it you’ve got a world of options available to you.  And I still find way too many DBAs are button monkeys and don’t know anything that isn’t presented to them in a wizard.

So anyway, the main reason I wrote this is to say that it’s proven itself to me today.  We needed to add a PK to a table and I was in a room with a bunch of SQL devs.  They started to lookup the syntax and I said, wait, give me a crack at it.  I sat down and busted it out without any slips.  And the thing is that this is one of the things I’ve practiced a lot.  But I haven’t touched it in almost a year so I’m a little surprised to find that it didn’t leave me.  Then again, when you do it as much as I have you won’t forget it anytime soon.  So my point here is that if you practice enough you can go a few months without doing it and you’ll still be ok.  And the funny thing is I didn’t even really remember the syntax myself.  My fingers did it for me.  I love how muscle memory works.  So hey, if you really want to get good at SQL then practice some of the more common syntax.  Do your 20s.  You’ll really be glad you did.  And you’ll get things done a lot quicker cause you’re not always looking up basic syntax.

Learning Powershell in Steps

One of the places PS shines is in its ability to let you work the way you want. So often I find someone stagnating in PS because they can’t figure out with “proper” way to do the task. So they stare at the screen for along time, try a few things, and finally give up. The problem with that is that all of a sudden PS is this new thing they don’t understand and they don’t have time to learn it nuances well enough to make it useful. So they get discouraged and don’t even consider it when coming up with solutions to issues. And this is coupled with that fact that sooooooo much of the PS examples out there are by guys who just don’t get it. They post these really long scripts that are written in native SMO when a simple 1-liner will do. Why would you do that to someone? I’ve said many times that if those scripts had been my first intro to PS I wouldn’t have given it a second glance either. To me, these guys can definitely code, but they really don’t *get* what PS is all about.

So here I’m going to help you with what I’m calling the conduit method of learning PS. Because even now when I can’t figure out how to do something in “proper” PS, I still fallback on what I know. I’ve said many times in my SQLSaturday sessions that PS will do pretty much whatever you tell it, and that it’s perfectly compatible with regular DOS commands. And the same thing goes with T-SQL.

Yesterday I needed to take a user account and add it to every DB on a big server. This server had hundreds of DBs on it. Well, of course I went to PS. My goal was to perform the task as fast as I could and go on about my day, so I chose the conduit method instead of the native PS method. Sure, I can call the regular SMO methods and maybe even figure out how that’s done, and figure out the exact params the methods take, etc, but SMO is so poorly documented it’s hard to ferret some of that stuff out. And you know what? Sometimes it’s more important to just get the job done than it is to make sure it’s done in “proper” or native PS.

So what is this conduit method I’m talking about? Well, it’s marrying what you know in T-SQL and using PS only as a conduit for your T-SQL. This usually consists of using Invoke-SqlCmd inside a loop. This way you get the best of both worlds. You get the power of PS and the simplicity of what you already know and you don’t have to rewrite it every time. So again, the conduit method let’s you code in T-SQL, and just delivers it in PS. And it’s a very powerful technique.

OK, so adding a user account to all my DBs. Here’s what the script looked like:

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dir | %{invoke-sqlcmd -ServerInstance localhost -database $_ -query "CREATE USER [MyUser] FOR LOGIN [MyUser]"}

So I start at the DB tree in PS. If you run a ‘dir’ command you’ll get a list of DBs. Now, you loop through them, and for each one, you call invoke-sqlcmd and connect to that DB. Now you run the T-SQL inside the -query param. It’s that easy. Now you’ve got a repeatable method for running code against a whole list of DBs on any server and it’ll run whatever is in the -query param.

And if you’ve got code that’s more complicated, you can put it in a file and run it that way. It would look like this:

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dir | %{invoke-sqlcmd -ServerInstance localhost -database $_ -InputFile c:\MySQLFile.sql}

With this you can deploy SPs or views, or tables, or whatever you like to every DB. And you can easily alter it to loop across servers too. So even if you’re a beginner you can use this method because it never changes and you can still get the full power out of PS. And this is the point isn’t it?

So many big PS guys completely miss the point that PS is supposed to make our lives easier. They insist that things have to be done a certain way and frankly I’m getting tired of all the little pissing contests that take place. Oh you have to do it this way because it performs better. Or you have to do it this way because it’s more elegant. And while I agree with those to a certain degree, there’s nothing more elegant than getting the job done and not having to spend all day doing it. I’ve had arguments with guys about scripting DB objects and they insist that the native SMO is faster than the way I do it even though mine is a lot less code. And I’ve tested it, and native SMO is faster. On one of my DBs that had several thousand objects the SMO came in like 15secs sooner than the shorter way. Wow, 15secs, really? What will I do with all that extra time? Maybe I can use it to finally write that book I’ve been planning on huh? So for most cases, these differences are just pissing contests that I have no use for.I don’t care if scripting an entire DB takes a few extra secs. I’ll spend far more time than that writing the SMO it takes to save that time.

And since a lot of our work is adhoc in nature, it helps us to be able to write short, tight code. And by adhoc I mean they’re requests that we couldn’t have forseen so we have to write something from scratch. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my hands in raw SMO 4x a day. I’d rather write a few 1-liners and go to lunch.

So don’t let anyone tell you that the conduit method is worthless or even inferior. It’s just as valid a method as writing 2 pages of SMO to do the same thing, and it performs plenty fast enough. Don’t be afraid of PS. Use the conduit method until you can learn more PS and in the meantime you’ll be more productive than you’ve ever been.

And we’ve got lots of PS vids on MidnightDBA.com, so go check them out and we’ll explain all kinds of things to you.

Powershell Homework Answers

Ok, I got some answers from the PS homework, so now it’s time for my solutions. If you didn’t get a chance to look at the assignments, take a look at them here real quick if you like and test yourself:
http://www.midnightdba.com/DBARant/?p=647
As with anything there can be multiple solutions to each problem, and while I may not give every single version of a solution, I’ll cover the major ones as I think of them. At times I’m also going to expand on the solution and show you a complete script you can use in your environment.

1. Get the total size of all the DBs on a server.

Method 1:

?Download DBSums1s.txt
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DIR | %{ $Total += $_.Size };
$Total

This is a basic method which doesn’t really require much explanation, but if you would like a full discussion of it, you can go here: http://www.midnightdba.com/DBARant/?p=488

Method 2:

?Download DBSums2.txt
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DIR | measure -property Size -sum

Again, there’s not much to say about this.

However, as a bonus, here’s a lovely script that will give you some good size info on your DBs, and then give you the sums at the bottom.

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param($ServerName = "localhost")
$ServerName
 
cd SQLSERVER:\SQL\$ServerName\DEFAULT\Databases;
 
$a = dir;
 
$Size = @{Label="Size(MB)"; expression={"{0:N2}" -f ($_.Size)}};
$DataSpaceUsage = @{Label="DataSpaceUsage(MB)"; expression={"{0:N2}" -f ($_.DataSpaceUsage/1024)}};
$IndexSpaceUsage = @{Label="IndexSpaceUsage(MB)"; expression={"{0:N2}" -f ($_.IndexSpaceUsage/1024)}};
$TotalSpaceUsage = @{Label="TotalSpaceUsage(MB)"; expression={"{0:N0}" -f (($_.DataSpaceUsage + $_.IndexSpaceUsage)/1024)}};
$SpaceAvailable = @{Label="SpaceAvailable(MB)"; expression={"{0:N2}" -f ($_.SpaceAvailable/1024)}};
 
$a | FT Name, $Size, $DataSpaceUsage, $IndexSpaceUsage, $TotalSpaceUsage, $SpaceAvailable -auto
 
#### Now get the total and put it into diff measures.
 
$Total = ($a | measure -property size -sum)
 
# $a | %{$Total += $_.size}
 
$TotalInMB = @{Label="Total(MB)"; expression={"{0:N2}" -f ($_.sum)}};
$TotalInGB = @{Label="Total(GB)"; expression={"{0:N2}" -f ($_.sum/1024)}};
$TotalInTB = @{Label="Total(GB)"; expression={"{0:N2}" -f ($_.sum/1024/1024)}};
 
$Total | FT $TotalInMB, $TotalInGB, $TotalInTB
 
CD C:\
 
DIR | %{ $Total += $_.Size };
$Total

2. Cycle through a list of servers and get the service account that all the SQL services are set to start with.

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$Servers = "Server1", "Server2", "Server3"
 
$Servers | %{ 
$curServer = $_ ## Current server in the loop.
gwmi win32_service -ComputerName $_ | ?{$_.DisplayName -match "SQL"} 
} | Format-Table SystemName, DisplayName, StartName -auto

This is one of those that has a few subtle nuance versions, but there’s no need for me to go into each one.
However, here’s my original post on the topic.
http://www.midnightdba.com/DBARant/?p=386

3. Script all the SPs in a DB to a txt file. Make sure they’re separated by GO stmts or the script won’t run.

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dir | %{$_.Script() | out-file c:\SP.txt -append; "GO" | out-file c:\SP.txt -append; $_.Name;}

There are a few ways to do this one as well, but again they’re just nuances. And when I say a few ways, I’m really only referring to the proper way to do it in PS, and not the overly complicated SMO versions. While you can definitely script this in SMO, it’s so long I don’t even consider it a solution in comparison to these 1-liners.
As well, I’ve got 2 vids that explain the topic in full. Here’s what you need to know:
http://midnightdba.itbookworm.com/VidPages/PowershellScriptDBObjects/PowershellScriptDBObjects.aspx
http://midnightdba.itbookworm.com/VidPages/PowershellScriptDBObjectsWithOptions/PowershellScriptDBObjectsWithOptions.aspx

4. Change the default file location for a group of servers.

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$a = dir
$a.settings.DefaultFile = "C:\MyNewFiles"

Ok, while I haven’t officially blogged on this one, there are 2 similar blogs that show you how to get to the level you need to be in order to run this one. So follow those other ones, and you’ll know how to do this one.
http://www.midnightdba.com/DBARant/?p=589
http://www.midnightdba.com/DBARant/?p=601
There’s also my video that shows you how to do this and I think it’s more comprehensive.
http://midnightdba.itbookworm.com/VidPages/PowershellServerProps/PowershellServerProps.aspx

5. Cycle through all the jobs on a server and change all their owners to sa.

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dir | %{$_.OwnerLoginName = "sa"; $_.Alter(); $_.Name;}

Now, there’s not a lot of explanation here. That’s because I’ve got a vid that explains it all.
http://midnightdba.itbookworm.com/VidPages/PowershellChangingJobOwners/PowershellChangingJobOwners.aspx
Ok, that’s it for the first PS homework assignments. You’ll notice that I assumed you knew where to run these from. I can’t very well teach every single basic every single time. However, I tried to give you resources to find the answers.

Test your Powershell prowess

Ok, well I’ve done quite a few PS posts now, and while it’s great to learn, it’s also great to test yourself. So here are some exercises you can use to test your skills. These are all very common PS taskes for enterprise admins. Some will be easy, and some will be more difficult. So here, take some time and see how it goes. And if you like, post your answers in the comments of this post for everyone else to see.

I’ll post my answers in a separate post. And again all these solutions will be in PS

1. Get the total size of all the DBs on a server.
2. Cycle through a list of servers and get the service account that all the SQL services are set to start with.
3. Script all the SPs in a DB to a txt file. Make sure they’re separated by GO stmts or the script won’t run.
4. Change the default file location for a group of servers.
5. Cycle through all the jobs on a server and change all their owners to sa.

Alrighty… that’s about it. Good luck.

Daddy is happy

Sometimes there’s a method to my madness. I’ve got a Jr. on my staff who is just now learning the ropes. Now, I don’t mean a Jr. in the sense that he just doesn’t know as much SQL as I do, I mean it in the real sense. He actually knows practically nothing. He’s not even a big Windows guy.

So teaching him can be challenging because where do I start? Do I start with windows, networking, data types, what? Well, I decided to start him on backups. Like many times before I figured that would give him the best chances to learn the basics. See, in any large shop, you do backup/restore constantly. There’s always someone needing a DB backed up or restored to one location or another. So there’s plenty of opportunity to practice. But practicing backup/restore is just one of the reasons I throw beginners into that area. The other reason is to teach them good solid basics all around.

Because along with the plethora of backup/restore in a large environment, there’s also a plethora of problems that go along with it. You try to backup to a location and find out you don’t have enough space so you have to decide what goes and what stays. You try to restore to a DB and you don’t have enough space, so you have to restore different files to different drives. You find one acct doesn’t have permissions to a location, so you have to take care of that. Then you find out that backups have been failing on these boxes over here so you have to look into what happened there. Then you have to work with the tape guy to bring some backups from offsite and try to find space on a server to restore them. Maybe even you have tricky restore that requires some actual thought too. The point is that there are so many pitfalls in backup/restore, that it’s an excellent place to start a beginner. Without even knowing or trying, they learn networking, windows security, SQL security, backup/restore syntax, file rotation methods, space mgmt, DNS, trace flags, and more. It’s a fabulous way to begin your career as a DBA.

Now, why am I so happy? Well because in this case my Jr. was talking to someone and trying to explain to them why he couldn’t restore their DB the way they wanted. He actually did a pretty good job. When he was finished, he looked over to see me smiling at him. He instantly said, what? I said, oh nothing. Then he’s like, then why are you staring at me. I said, did you hear what you just said to that guy? He goes, no. I was just explaining to him why I couldn’t restore his DB the way the needed. I said, ok, and why is that. He went on to explain to me what the problem was. I said, ok then how can we fix that. He said, well under the current circumstances we really can’t. That’s what I was trying to explain to him. I just smiled again. He said, what? Why do you keep doing that?

I said, look at you. 2 months ago you wouldn’t have been able to do that much less explain it. I never taught you that, where did you come up with it? He said, well I’ve done it so much and I’ve just learned that… all of a sudden his eyes got really wide. He looked at me and said… OHHHHH so that’s why you want me doing all the backup/restore. Because I learn all this other stuff with it. I said now you’re getting it. And it’s just cool to see that it’s working.

This is what I’m talking about when I talk about mentoring. A good mentor can show you where you need to go in the order you need it. And I’m not bragging, I’m just saying that it takes more than just reading books. You have to be with someone who’s been there a couple times. He can teach you how to think like a DBA. Hell, I’ve learned all my .NET from books and blog samples, and I actually suck. I get things done, but I’m no real coder in any sense of the word. Well, I’m on the receiving end of that now cause our big .NET guy at work ahs been showing me things and actually mentoring me a little, and it’s really cool the things I don’t nkokw. So I’m even getting it a little myself. Cool stuff that.

What makes a Sr. DBA?

I get indirectly asked this question all the time… what makes a Sr. DBA?  Well, that question is gonna be answered 20 different ways by 10 different DBAs.  But here’s my answer.

Aside from whatever specific qualities you assign to what a Sr should look like, here’s a stick you can use to measure yourself.  You should be able to meet both of these criteria.

  1. 1.       Are you right most of the time?
  2. 2.      Do you handle your own problems instead of calling daddy?

 

Ok, let’s talk about #1 first.  Nobody is right all the time, but are you right most of the time?  When you get on in a crisis, do you diagnose the problem correctly say better than 90% of the time?  And do you discover and deduce the problem, or do you just fall into it?  Do your users come to you for answers?  In other words, have you earned your place as the go-to guy?

Next, how often do you call daddy?  If you’re in a shop with an existing Sr. DBA, do you call him when you have a problem or do you research and solve your own issues before getting him involved?  It’s always really easy to call the Lead DBA, but it doesn’t teach you anything.  And as long as you’re relying on his research skills you’ll never be the go-to guy yourself.

I remember it well.  Much longer ago than I care to remember, I asked whatever male figure I had how you know when you’re a man.  He told me something that stuck with me all these years.  He said, you know you’re a man when you quit calling your parents when you have trouble.  And I remember it hit me once when I was driving late at night and got a flat tire.  I just got out and changed it and went on my way.  And a year ago I would have called my folks to come help me.  That was my first hint that I may have crossed into manhood.  Because at some point you realize that it’s up to you.

It’s the same in the IT world.  You go through these years of learning and then of getting proficient, and at some point it dawns on you that it’s all up to you and only you can solve your problems.  You have to be the one to investigate and solve the blocking, or the deadlocks, or the excessive waits, etc.

And that doesn’t mean that you never need any help with anything.  Nothing could be further from the truth, but how often do you need that external help?

Why GoDaddy Sucks

Well, the site if finally back online.  I’m still moving a lot of the content over, but most of the vids are online again.

This whole debacle was caused by GoDaddy.  MidnightDBA.com has been up and running for 2yrs and for no reason whatsoever, it just stopped working last week.  None of my .net controls would work, so the menu and datagrids were all returning errors.  I tried to see if something went wrong on my end, and even pulled in the best .net guy I know from work, and nothing fixed it.  My work guy said that it seemed like GoDaddy was blocking .axd files and that’s why the content wasn’t working.  I finally got on with GoDaddy support, something I always dread because every time I’ve ever called them they’ve been absolutely useless.  Oh they’re polite, but every tech I’ve talked to with GoDaddy has been completely worthless and they do nothing but try to find ways to boot the call the second they start talking to you.

So anyway, I called support and no matter what I did I heard the same song again and again… “We don’t support custom coding.”

I tried and tried explaining to them that it’s not custom coding and that the site had been working for 2yrs.  And they insisted that nothing was wrong with the server and that my code had to be bad.  And to prove it they pushed a stupid little text file up and since they could read it, they used that as justification to try to close the case.  So I had the ticket escalated and talked to a couple managers.  The problem is with me at this point… for some reason I actually expected a different result.  I didn’t get one though.  The advanced escalation team fed me the same line of BS.  I even went around and around with them showing them a simple test page, and how the site worked on 3 other web servers, but they refused to listen to the simplest logic.  None of their support people know even the most basic principles of .net so they only gave me assinine ideas.  And that’s if the idea were even an idea at all.  The first guy I talked to went to his 2nd-level support guy and came back and said, “He said you have to push a ticket to your web.config file and do something I didn’t understand.”  Now, I have no idea what ‘push a ticket to your web.config’ means, but even if it meant something just the fact that he couldn’t finish the sentence means something doesn’t it?  He should have at least gone back to the guy to ask for more details, but he wouldn’t.  He was more concerned with booting the call because he doesn’t support custom coding.  And of course, I’m not allowed to talk to the 2nd level techs because I’m on a shared host and we’re not important enough to talk to the higher level morons.  So I was refused and was only allowed to talk to 1st-level guys.  And every time my tech would go away to ask someone something he’d be gone for around 30mins.

I did talk to one manager who actually got what I was saying though and she really went to bat for me.  Unfortunately, she works in a sea of morons and there’s just no way she’ll ever make a difference.  So after a week of being down, I signed up with another host, and amazingly the site came online right away.  I guess my code just decided to work again and it really didn’t have anything to do with GoDaddy’s servers, huh?  I mean, it must have been my mistake for thinking that code would run on their servers through whatever they do to the box.  It certainly wasn’t because they were blocking .axd files all of a sudden.  Because if they had for some reason decided to start blocking those file types, I know they would be responsible enough to tell their customers they were making a major change like that.  So I know now that it HAD to be me.  I didn’t do something right in my code.  So the code that I thought was solid and had been working for 2yrs just stopped on its own.  How could I have been so stupid? 

This is a warning to anyone who’s considering putting their site on GoDaddy.  If you do you’ll be sorry because they make changes on their servers without telling you about it and then blame you when something goes wrong.  If I hadn’t gone to another host, my site would have to be completely re-coded to use nothing but static HTML or classic ASP.  It’s ridiculous, unprofessional, and shows a real apathy for their customers.  GoDaddy has proven to me again and again that they don’t give a crap about their customers.  We’re just a paycheck to them.  But you know what?  If they keep this up we won’t be a paycheck much longer.  CIHost pulled a bunch of the same crap and look what happened to them.

SO DON’T GO TO GODADDY FOR ANYTHING!!!