Monday, November 30, 2009

How do -You- use SQL Server

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I had the great pleasure of meeting Jorge Segerra (Blog | Twitter), @SQLChicken on Twitter. We got together for an hour or so at a Starbuck’s in Tampa, talking about all kinds of things, SQL and otherwise. The conversation got around to SQL Saturday coming up in Tampa, and Jorge invited me to present, to which I replied, “What would I talk about?” Eventually we got it down to I should discuss how I use SQL Server at work. I find I have a sort of unique type of work environment with SQL Server. I told Jorge that I wondered what other people do with the product, and he suggested I ask the question in my blog, so here we are.

In the spirit of the chain of posts that asked folks how they got started in SQL Server, I would like to tag a few folks and ask the question… What do you do with SQL Server in your work? I know in general terms, people do dev or admin, backups, restores, or some combination of those, but I’m curious about a little more detail.

For instance, what goes on in my place of work is, in a few words, like this. We are a marine electronics manufacturing facility – we make fishfinders and related accessories. Originally, we got SQL Server 2005 Workgroup Edition as part of a package that laser engraves barcodes on printed circuit boards, serializing them so we have traceability through the manufacturing process. The board serial becomes the fishfinder unit’s serial number that the end user uses to register his unit with us after he buys it, and for software upgrades, etc.

During the manufacturing process, I can grab the data gathered at various electronic test points, by way of the test software sending test data to SQL Server as the tests are completed. With this data, I can get manufacturing rates and yields, which get reported both in realtime in the form of charts displayed on a projection screen on the production floor, and in reports that management reviews every other day. Both the charts and reports are excel files, in which I use Microsoft Query to communicate with SQL Stored procedures to retrieve the data, and then use Excel tools to display it, sort it, do what-if scenarios, charts, etc.

We are owned by a parent company, which uses J.D. Edwards World Enterprise database (which is running on top of a SQL Server 2000 instance) to run the business, and we have been having our parent company send some of the enterprise data to our SQL Server, such as work orders, part number lists, etc, which I join in with the tables on our local SQL box to be able to combine data for reports. We are in the beginning stages of sending data the other way, into JDE, to automate completions to close work orders, etc.

Also, lately, we have been using our employee time management company send hours, which are collected automatically from digital time clocks on the network, through a secure FTP connection, which I also copy into tables on SQL, joining them with the rates and yields collected, to be able to then report on Labor Efficiency.

All of the above I plan to break down into a coherent set of slide decks, to present at a SQL Saturday, the details of how these things get in and get out, the T-SQL code I’ve written, etc. For right now, though, as I said in the beginning, I’m curious as to what, in general but more detail then “I’m a DBA” you do in your workplace. How do you use SQL Server, what kinds of uses have you found for it, what in your environment benefits from it, etc?

I’ve been, as some of you know, trying to learn SQL Server, and this is part of my journey of knowledge. Knowing how other people use the product, what goes on in the industry, these are things of which I have no knowledge, and would like to.

To start the round-robin off, I would like to specifically tag Jorge Segarra (you knew that one was coming didn’t you?) and also Denny Cherry (Blog | Twitter) and Grant Fritchey (Blog | Twitter), just because they’re such interesting folks :) Personally, because I’m from New England, I’d also like to hear from Adam Machanic (Blog | Twitter), and Mike Walsh (Blog | Twitter).

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Technically I haven't been AFK, just trying to keep up with the torrent of work, blogs, tweets, woodworking, household stuff, family stuff, medical condition, work, etc., etc. None of it excuses, but hey, I'm using them all, so they all add up to one big excuse!

So what's been going on? Well, let’s go through the various views of life, you’ll get an idea why I haven’t blogged anything recently for lack of time, gumption, wherewithal, whatever. :)

A few weeks ago, my daughter announced that she and her boyfriend got engaged to be married, and was moving out. That was on a Tuesday evening. On Wednesday afternoon next, she apparently decided there was nothing to be gained by waiting, so she and her fiancĂ© went to the town hall and got married. There you have it, in one fell swoop I lost my daughter and gained a son-in-law. That’s big stuff, and took quite the while to get used to.

If having my twenty year old daughter get married wasn’t proof enough, I’ve also self-proven I’m getting on in years, as my progressive bifocals came in this week, and I’m spending time trying to learn to get used to these. Last time I was at the eye doctor, four years ago, my vision had finally gotten down to 20/20. Now, I find I have astigmatism in my left eye, and macular degeneration in my right, along with my diabetes creating multiple micro-aneurisms in my eyes. Woof.

At work, among other things, I've written an application (in Excel, of all things) for the Quality Department to use in completing audits, so anyone of us can take a tablet notebook out on the production floor, check off red, yellow and green radio buttons for each category of procedure we're auditing, then hit the big Submit button and the app then creates an email, saves the report sheet, reports the result score in a yearly tracking sheet all automatically. This should save, over the course of a fiscal year, at least a couple dozen hours of time for all five of us doing audits.

In my community volunteering, I am a member of the local Men’s singing group, and we have been getting ready for the annual town Christmas concert, what they call around here the “traditional start of the holiday season in Eufaula.” That takes up a good bit of time, but it’s a really enjoyable endeavor, so there. My parents will be coming in that weekend, too, so maybe we can take in the Annual Christmas Tour of Homes, at some of the local manses, all decked out for the holidays. Should be a fun weekend.

On the woodworking front, I have gotten back into the shop after a weeks long hiatus, completing the second fluted pilaster of the bureau in potentia that I have been building for the past couple of years. Good things take time :) I will post pictures soon, promise.

In SQL Server news, I have been asked by Blythe Morrow (Twitter | LinkedIn), Community Programs Coordinator at Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) to be the next leader for PASS’s Application Development Virtual Chapter, taking over for Jeremiah Peschka (Twitter | LinkedIn | Blog), who is moving on to PASS’s Board of Directors. Those are some HUGE shoes to fill, Jeremiah is a Microsoft MVP, blogger extrodinaire, and all around expert, and I am going to pale in comparison. Like I told Blythe in a tweet, though, I love a challenge. We are targeting January for that to come about.

So, yeah, I’ve been busy. I should probably say that I am also getting together what it takes to move my blog over to Wordpress, under my own URL, which, if I can get my hosting service to answer an email or call, will happen soon. I need to get blogging up to par to be able to better serve the SQL Community, especially as I am going to be a much more visible contributor in other fronts.