Monthly Archives: December 2010

Looking Ahead to 2011

For as much as I write tasks/to-do items down, am unhappy when I don’t get things done on-time, and really enjoy learning and doing new things, lists of Goals sure rub me the wrong way!

2011 Task

Just don't call them "goals"

I’ve always been that way and I haven’t been able to figure out what my deal is. At first, I thought it was the idea of someone else dictating to me what I should do, but I feel this way when I cook up “goals” for myself, too. It’s not being adverse to work, because when it’s fun, it doesn’t matter. Fortunately, just about everything related to IT that isn’t writing .NET code is fun to me, so it’s not that, either.

If nothing else, I at least understand that I’m in the minority here, and can play along at work (err, “play along” sounds a lot more negative than I mean it to be) and understand that Goals make the world go ‘round. I’ll fill out the tool, put them on my Task list for myself (maybe even put “Goals” in the name), and everyone will be happy at the end of the day.

At any rate, since this can’t be a “goals” post ( 😉 ), it’s just going to be some random mumblings about where I want to go next year.

2011: The last full year

OK, I don’t really think the world is going to end in 2012, because No-one expects the Spanish Inquisition! and Mathew 24:36. You’re right, that was dumb. Let me try again.

2011: I pick a direction and [maybe] stick to it

The biggest thing coming up next year for me is career-related.

The whole reason I switched from being a Sysadmin to this DBA thing is because of Business Intelligence. I’m doing the plain-Jane DBA partly because it was there and partly because I saw it as a way to get my foot in the door of “real” data land. For the most part, that has worked out quite well, and, as it turns out, I like doing this full-time, too!

What this means is I need to decide which way I want to go with my life: Do I want to stay a full-time DBA or do what I can to follow what SQLChicken (blog | @SQLChicken) has done, and switch over to full-time BI work (he actually reminded me the other night that Pragmatic Works is hiring, but I said that the travel wouldn’t work for me. On the other hand, if I could drive or fly a little airplane around TN, then we’d need to talk 😀 )? There’s the potential for a heavy BI opportunity at my current job, but I don’t yet know how that is going to play out. It might be a good way to test the waters a bit, but I won’t know that for at least a month or two.

Regardless of how that goes, I need to get some new things going on job-wise soon, because I’m so over SQL 2000, I don’t even know what to say about it.

Other Data Stuff

SQL-related travel is something that we should be doing more of. Neither one of us has a very good (ie, all but nonexistent) travel budget at work, so we have to foot the bill for this on our own. Yes, we know.

We couldn’t swing PASS this year, and that wasn’t any fun. I’ve got SQL Rally on the calendar, but that still remains to be seen. It would be much easier for us to pull off, plus can easily be driven to (we’re done flying Part 121 ops for right now, thanks to the TSA). There are some SQL Saturdays that aren’t terrible to get to, and those are, of course, good events in their own right.

The biggest problem we have with travel these days (and this goes for all travel, not just SQL travel) at the moment is the dogs, since we haven’t been able to figure out what to do with them since moving down here. Taking them along is almost impossible (lodging at destination), and Boarding them at a place that doesn’t just leave them in crates all day gets real expensive real fast. We could get an RV, I guess, but we’d quickly become that couple at events, hahahaha. Still working on this.

Next year, I want to do more experimentation/exploration/goofy stuff with SQL Server at home. I’ve got a couple instances running now, but I’d like to branch into playing with pre-release stuff. This would be easier with a hardware budget, but I’m pushing that envelope as it is, already. Part of what’s holding me back in this department right now, is the simple fact that I don’t really know what to do with myself if I don’t have big DBs with a lot of users hitting them really making things work. Basically, I don’t function well when I don’t have a problem to solve :-)…I’m going to work on either fixing that next year or figure out a way around it.

Big Bookmark, Skinny Book

I'm going to have bookmark problems

I’m going to try to read more next year. I have no idea how I’m going to pull this off, because I read stupidly slow, so it takes me forever to get through anything. I’ve cleaned up my backlog of SQLServerCentral dailies so they’re not so overwhelming, and cutting my losses on some older SQL books that I haven’t made it through. I don’t think I can do anything about my blog feeds, because so many of you guys out there write good and useful content (unlike me).

I hope to get a quick win on the book front by reading Tom LaRock’s (blog | @SQLRockstar) book, since it’s thinner than pretty much everything else I have around here. In fact, it might be a little too thin (see pic). I’m hoping that a quick win there will help me build some momentum. Maybe I’ll magically be able to read faster, too.


The first other topic is this Blog. I need to spend more time and effort on it, especially when it comes to writing good technical content. So far, I haven’t done a good job at that. That’s partially due to my job situation, but I could be doing more anyway. I hate setting arbitrary numerical goals, but I think I’m going to do it here: 26 posts. That’s an average of one every two weeks, and I should be able to pull that off. I’m not going to get overly detailed and say that “20 of them need to have good technical content”, I’m only going to go for an overall number.

I used to bicycle a fair amount. It hasn’t been the same since I was in college, where I put 30-35 miles a week on the bike just going to class & work. Back then I did a fair amount of mountain biking, too (which is what I’m really in it for), and spent a couple years running races in the Indiana statewide series, DINO. The last few years have been really lacking in that department, both causing and exacerbated by me being fat.

Next year, going to fix that & spend more time on the bike. I’ve already started to do some work on the trainer, and when it warms up, I’m going to move it to the road around the house. We live almost as far away from good bike trails as we did in IN, but I’m going to make an effort to not let that be in my way as much as it has been in the past.

This talk of biking has made me realize that I’m going to need some form of case or other padding for my new phone. The one time I went on a trail this year saw me doing an awesome, completely unintentional half backflip on the bike. I wound up flat on my back, still clipped into the pedals, holding the bicycle up in the air above me. The problem is that I carry my phone in my Camelbak; although the old Samsung i760 lived through that without a problem, I’m pretty sure the Focus would be broken in half. Soooo, need to do something about that.

My Non-Y2K-Compliant Logbook

My Non-Y2K-Compliant Logbook

The final thing for next year is flying. I got my Logbook out recently and thumbed through it. There’s some good stuff in there. The last time I flew was February 2005. I don’t even have the tail number of the airplane or the hours of the last two flights. Just have the landings (2 for one, 1 for the other). I know they were both in one/some of the Skyhawks at Lafayette Aviation, Tammy was with me for one of them, and I had to wait to take off on the single landing one because the visibility was crap**.

Anyway, since then, I’ve waffled back-and-forth between missing flying and being OK with how things are, because flying is freakin’ expensive. But, with the TSA thing and me more and more wanting to get back into it, I want to start flying again next year if I can find the money for it. This does mean that I am supposed to work on my Instrument rating (so I can fly in the clouds, basically), because I promised myself that a number of years ago. So… there’s the last thing for next year: Get Instrument Ticket if I can find the room in the budget.

There we are. 2011. Please don’t hold me to this stuff, because, you know, they’re not goals; just stuff I want to get done 😀

**That one was actually sorta fun, because it was late in the afternoon and the visibility was crap due to a fairly dense haze layer. We finally took off (oh hey, this is the one with Tammy. This means she was only with me for one landing. Hahaha, stay tuned for awesome stories.), flew around the pattern, annnnd then turned final, which happened to be directly into the sun. Bam, couldn’t see anything. I mean, seriously, in-flight visibility was maybe 1/2 mile, and I was on a mile final. I grumped about this to the controller as I flew runway heading, knowing that it would eventually show up ahead, and he was all, “Yeah, the last guy said it was pretty bad.” Yeah, thanks for the heads-up, pal.

Help, Comcast’s DNS is sucking again!

This past Sunday, if you lived in parts of the Midwest (I know IN & IL were on the list, but I don’t remember who all else) and have Crapcast Comcast as your ISP, you might have had problems surfing the tubes, because they were having trouble with their DNS servers again. News of this spread through Twitter (at least that’s how I heard about it since I wasn’t affected directly), in a bizarre twist of news-spreading similar to people sending email at work letting people know that the mail server is down… Obviously with smartphones & such this is still a good way to spread such information, but it still strikes me as a bit funny 😉

(I’m not going to go into what DNS is here. I assume most people reading this are already going to know what it is, what it’s for, and why it’s important, so I’m going to skip this whole part.)

The main way to take care of this is to set your machine to use other DNS servers. The usual suspects recommended during times like this are Google’s two public servers, aptly named google-public-dns-a and (-c resolves to a server, but its IP isn’t as easy to just remember (more on that in a sec). Or, it’s a Google honeypot for smarty pants 😀 ). There’s also OpenDNS servers, which apparently do a bunch of other stuff like redirecting you to the right place when you misspell something. I don’t really know how well this actually works or anything; this is just what their Wikipedia page says.

Google’s own page explaining how to set these up is a good reference for what to do if you don’t know. They’re pretty good instructions, so knock yourself out there. These servers’ IPs are and, which are fairly easy to remember (and type), making it easy to set up on machines on-the-fly, which is important if you’re looking to set this up while DNS is down and you can’t get to…

Here’s what I prefer to do

Google’s instructions are fine to set up a machine or two, but what if you’ve got half a dozen boxes in your house and/or you want a bit of a more robust solution? Glad you asked!

Most likely, the machines on your home network are serviced by your router’s built-in DHCP server. At the same time it provides the machines with IP addresses to use, it also provides them with one or two DNS servers. It should be getting these addresses from your ISP in basically the same way—it’s a DHCP client instead of a server on its external-facing port.

Obviously, under normal circumstances, your ISP is going to be providing their own DNS servers for this use, as it allows them to load custom search pages and stuff if they want to. (Did Comcast ever go through with doing that?) If your router supports it, however, you can override these settings, and that is where the more robust solution to this DNS problem comes in.

Somewhere in your router’s settings is probably a section called “Basic Setup”, “Basic Settings”, or something similar. This section will include things like the router’s name, authentication settings in case your ISP requires that, and possibly more advanced things like MAC address spoofing. What you’re looking for here is a section that refers to “Static” or “Manual” DNS servers like these:

WRT54G Settings

Old Linksys Settings screen

Netgear Settings Screen

Netgear Settings Screen

These are a couple of the routers that I have available to look at. The first one is an old Linksys WRT54G (if you aren’t actively using one of these at home…well…you have my sympathy) and the second one is our travel router, some random Netgear thing. These are the general settings areas that you’re looking for.

The main idea here is to put Google’s DNS servers’ IPs into those manual configuration boxes. You could forego your ISP servers altogether and just put in both of Google’s server and call it a day. However, for some reason, this strikes me as something that isn’t the best idea. I don’t have a real good reason for it, it’s just one of those things that doesn’t feel right. What I would do is to get one of your ISP’s DNS servers and put that in as your primary, then one of Google’s servers as the secondary (or tertiary, if you have an option for 3). That strikes me as a safer option, but there is one thing to keep in mind: If your ISP ever changes their DNS servers, since your settings are manually configured, that change won’t be made automatically like it otherwise would. Obviously if you’ve got one of Google’s servers in there, things will still work, but name resolution may be a bit slower if your machine picks the now-broken IP first and you have to wait for that to time out before it hits the second machine. This is just something to weigh; I don’t know that there’s a good reason to not just put Google’s DNS servers in there and go on with life, other than it’s almost definitely an “unsupported” configuration in your ISP’s eyes.

The reason I advocate this method of setup is simple: When you do this, these addresses will be passed on to your workstations when they get IPs to use from the router. This will happen for every machine that connects to your network, so you only need to set this up once to use these other servers.

While you’re in here messing around, it is important to leave the router set to get its external IP via DHCP or whatever else your ISP has told you it needs to be set to. If you do this, then things will work OK for now, but at some time in the near future, it’s probable that things will stop working altogether. If you can’t manually set your DNS servers without leaving the IP address on Automatic/DHCP, then you won’t be able to set DNS up this way, and you’ll need to use Google’s instructions to set each of your machines individually.

Nutjob solution

Or, forget all this, run your own DNS server, point it at the Root Hint servers, and thumb your nose at Comcast’s inability to do simple things like keep some DNS servers happy.

I have no idea who would do such crazy things, though <.< >.>