Monday, 30 January 2012

Blogging: Starting a Blog

Following on from the first post in my blogging series Building a Blog I’m just going to take a  quick look at some of the blogging platforms you can choose to manage your blog. The most common platform that I have come across if WordPress. I haven’t really used WordPress to managing any of my blogs. I have installed it and downloaded it but I plumped for Google’s blogger mainly because of how easy it was to setup and how little I had to do to start blogging.

WordPress definitely has a lot of advantages you can download it for free from here You can also find some useful documentation for installing and configuring and some links to potential hosts for you blog. There will be a cost for the hosting.

There are lots of plugin and themes that you can download for free and there some that you can pay for depending on your preference.These can all be used to improve the functionality and services that your blog provides. As I said WordPress is the most popular blog platform out there so you can get a lot of support from people using it to host their blogs and websites.

I opted for Google's’ when I started this blog, I did because at the time it seemed like the easiest way for me to do it. It didn’t cost anything to setup or host and a for a small fee you get a domain name integrated with Google apps.

Thus far I have not had any problems with it. It is all hosted and housed by Google which does mean its not as flexible as WordPress but it has suited me fine.

If I was starting again now I would put more time and effort into WordPress but as my blog seems to be doing OK on Google I have no intention yet to migrate…For now anyway, maybe at a later date I will attempt to migrate it.

What do you think, what’s your preferred blogging platform and why?

If you want to read more about building a successful blog this is a really good book with some really good tips in it ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income

Friday, 27 January 2012

Blogging: Building a Blog

I took an interest in building  a blog/website several years ago when I first started my company and working for myself. Over the years I have tried many different approaches and over the last few years I have settled on using my blog to build my brand.

More recently a monthly MeMe has started in the SQL Server blogger community that talks about blogging or meta blogging as it is known. This Meme has got me thinking about blogging and how to go about building a successful blog. This MeMe was started by Jason Strate (Blog) and is now approaching its third monthly run.

To coincide with this my good friend Matthew Bird (Blog|Twitter) and I had a discussion over lunch a few weeks back about the benefits of blogging and how it can help build your business. Matt was a little negative about bogging initially, he struggled to see the benefits in giving something away for free. Lets be clear Matt is a very successful business man in his own right, he has interests in many different businesses and he is currently building a business in the world of financial services and financial advice.

Matt and I talked and discussed  how a blog can help build his presence and his brand in his  field. It can be used to document your knowledge on a subject area and it can also be used to provide your opinion on certain subjects.  I think Matt took some of that advice on board as he now has a  blog all of his own. Please don’t misunderstand me I’m not an SEO guru, nor am I the greatest blogger in the world. Matthew won’t mind me sharing this with you, and I think our discussions can help and benefit other people who are considering building a blog so I have decided to write some posts on subject.

This is the first. I will be running a short series on blogging, how to go about setting up a blog, what platforms to use, what to write about, how to get ‘inspiration’ for a post, how to get noticed by Google and how to use some of the the social networking sites like twitter and LinkedIn to help increase your readership and your traffic.Nobody will stick at blogging for long if they think nobody is reading it so its important to discuss this and how to increase your readership. I may also include a short post adverts and monetizing your blog

I’m not an not an expert in this subject, so please do feel free to correct and error or provide additional information or make or suggestions via the comments, your opinions and view will be most welcome.

I got a lot of information when I first started blogging  from this book which has some really good tips and advice in it ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income

Friday, 20 January 2012

Rename an Analysis Services Instance

This is just a short post for Friday. I have been working a fair amount with SSAS and the rest of the BI stack and recently  I was asked to install a default instance of SSAS on server that already had a named instance installed. I didn’t think this would take me a long time I had a quick look at Configuration Manager saw the named SSAS instance mounted up the ISO and off I went.

Click click click click done. Oh an Error…”The instance ID needs to be unique please ”  on further investigation it seemed that the existing named instance had the default instance ID. How could that be I thought?

It turns out that the current named instance was initially installed as the default instance then got renamed. SSAS instances are far more easily renamed than  Database Engine instances. The recommended way to change a database engine default instance to a named instance is to uninstall and re-install the server. Fortunately with SSAS the process is much more straight forward.

SSAS actually ships with an instance rename tool, this article on the Microsoft  site talks you through how to use it

My rename tool can be found her

C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\100\Tools\Binn\VSShell\Common7\IDE

The tool is called ASInstanceRename.exe

Fire it up and you get a screen that looks like this


Select an instance to rename from the drop-down list and specify the new name for the instance. In this case I’m renaming my default instance and making it a named instance imaginatively called NewInstance. You click on OK and the instance gets renamed and I get a named instance of SSAS

Now I’d have to connect to the SSAS instance using ServerName\InstanceName

If you want to make a named instance the default instance, then you leave the new instance name field  blank. This process will fail if you already have a default instance.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Help JHD Help MND

My good friend Justin Hostettler-Davies (JHD) aka @JHDAVIES , the same JHD who recently scaled Kilimanjaro, is on the fund raising trail again.  I hope you can help him.

Justin with his mountain climbing experience behind him is continuing with his endurance events, he is running the London Marathon this year in support of the MND Association. Rather than ask you to help myself,  I think I’ll let Justin tell you his sad story:

“Early in 2011, a life-long (over 20 years) friend of mine was cruelly diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. He is only 35 years old and a father of two.
Motor Neurone Disease (MND) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks the upper and lower motor neurones. Degeneration of the motor neurones leads to weakness and wasting of muscles, causing increasing loss of mobility in the limbs, and difficulties with speech, swallowing and breathing. Life expectancy is between six months and three years from onset of symptoms.

My friend should be enjoying his young family life but instead he is battling every day to conquer this terrible disease.

My challenge this year is to run the London Marathon 2012 in order to raise vital funds for the MND Association (reg charity no 294354) in an attempt to help make the lives of sufferers and their families a little bit more comfortable in the limited time they have and also to assist with vital research and trials.
If you are in a position to help in any way, via donations or auction/raffle prizes I would be most grateful.

For more info on MND please visit



If you can help Justin in anyway, through sponsorship or donation (please use this link or  even if its just a re-tweet of this post to raise awareness of his efforts I think Justin and the MND Association would appreciated it.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Twitter, John, Building a Blog and #MEME15

I saw an interesting post this morning care of the micro-blogging/social networking site twitter that really got me thinking about blogging.

John Sansom (Blog|@JohnSansom) wrote a very interesting post participating I believe in the second assignment of meme15Logo for meme15. Meme15 is a monthly blogging event created by Jason Strate  (Blog|Twitter) that is designed to encourage SQL bloggers to write about blogging, a topic known as meta blogging. The blogging event ensures that several bloggers write about the same subject on a specific date during the month. Feel free to get involved. This is my first post in the said event.

The topics discussed in meme15 are very likely to have a wider scope than just SQL bloggers, if you blog on anything then I think the posts in this meme are likely to provide you with a different way of thinking about how and why you blog

The question this month is why should the average database professional get involved and use twitter. I like John’s take on twitter and the benefits he gets from it and I feel that I get many of the same benefits too. John’s main point on the use of  twitter, is its a place to network globally or locally with people with the same or similar interests to his. In John’s case he spends  time conversing with other people who work with SQL Server, helping out by answering questions that people post on twitter asking for help and no doubt sometimes he receives help when he asks a question. John makes a great point when he’s says you get what you put in and twitter is different things to different people.

If you use Twitter like John uses twitter then you will no doubt  get many benefits from it as a data professional. If you are a data professional with a blog there other benefits too that you can get from twitter if you are prepared to put in a little effort.

What are they? I hear you cry

Let’s be clear here, if you blog you do so for a reason, different bloggers have different reasons for blogging but ultimately everyone blogs to be read by someone. Whatever your reasons for blogging. One of the things that kills off most bloggers after the initial enthusiasm has worn off is the fact they are not getting read or have a very low readership, their visitor numbers are not in the millions that they were expecting  and they simply give up and stop. Twitter can help you build a popular blog.

Twitter can help build traffic to your site

Let’s use John as an example. I have been conversing with John via twitter for a few years now, I don’t actually remember how we came to follow each other but it was definitely after a SQL Server discussion. Through twitter I found John’s blog and I subscribed to his blog via Google reader. No doubt others have done the same. John, via twitter, talks and networks with different people around the globe all with a common interest, SQL Server . John has a SQL Server blog where he can expand and go beyond the 140 character limit that twitter has and write posts and articles with much greater detail. John posts his links to blog posts out to twitter, his followers are likely to have interest in the topic he has written about  and follow the link to the post and get involved in John’s  blog. John’s use of twitter for all the reasons he explains in his post me he has engaged, active and interested people visiting his blog. The type of people who are likely to leave a comment and get involved in discussion

It can help to get your post in front of others

You can benefit from your post being re-tweeted (RT) by your followers so your traffic flow  doesn’t stop with your immediate network, John writes a weekly round up or review of all the blog posts he has read and found interesting during that week. There was a time when my posts used to make his round up but my mentions in there seem to have tailed off over the last few months.Never mind. John’s Something for the Weekend series is a great read basically John publishes a blog post out with links and short review of all the blog posts he has read and found interesting through the week. His post goes out every Friday and if you have had a busy and not had time to stop and read blogs you get a nice place to start with some of the better blogs published that week. Now lets say John publishes a link on twitter, John has several hundred follower potentially if they all retweet his post then he could very well end up with link in front of thousands of people all with a link to someone who likes to tweet about SQL Server. I hope you can see the potential for increasing traffic to your site.

Twitter can give you ideas

If you put the effort into Twitter you will meet many interesting people who share some similar interests to you. The people are likely to post things on twitter that give you ideas. John’s post this morning led me to writing this post!

If you are a data professional then Twitter can have a number of advantages, if you are a data professional with a blog then twitter can be a great place to help build and grow your blog.

If you want to read more about building a successful blog this is a really good book with some really good tips in it ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

How safe are your secrets?

We’ve all have service accounts, application accounts, sysadmin and domain admin accounts and other privileged shared accounts on our systems. These are all vital to the running of our applications and databases.
But do you keep them safe?
Are the passwords held somewhere secure, do you audit who looks them up, do you change them regularly, do you even know if these passwords are correct?

I recently installed Thycotic’s Secret Server for that purpose.
This is a web app with a SQL backend that can hold all of your passwords, control who can view or edit them, audit who has viewed or changed them, can run a regular heartbeat to check that the password in the database is correct, auto change the passwords and update related services at the same time.

If you have a third party that needs to access a server or application but you don’t want them to know the password they use, then you can configure an account with a launcher where they can click on the icon and it logs in to the system without them needing to see or do anything. And it can record what they do once they are on that system as well.

We hold Windows, SQL, Oracle, Unix, web accounts but it can be configured to manage lots more as well as mundane  things like combination codes.
It has full DR and HA capability – vital for something that holds all the information your would need in a disaster and it even has a Blackberry and iPhone app giving it extra flexibility, though we haven’t tried these yet.

I have been very pleased with Secret Server for enterprise password management and would certainly recommend them and the teams that I’ve rolled it out to here have been equally impressed with it.

Take a look at

Monday, 9 January 2012

Morning Checks - Forewarned is forearmed

It’s always handy to know if there any problems with your servers before you get into work in the morning. This is why I wrote a program that goes round all our SQL instances at 7am and checks they are all up. If it doesn’t get a reply from one it emails or pages me to let me know. So I know what to expect when I get in and can “hit the ground running”.

I have a table with the names of all the servers and instances and my program simply works its way through the list this code actually check the state of the Windows service. The service name for the default instance is straightforward but you will need to work out the correct name for your named instances.

Of course there may be occasion where the service reports as running but actually SQL isn’t responding. An alternative method would be to run a SQL command against each instance and see if there is a SQL response. I use that for DBMS and SSAS  but it doesn’t work  for SSIS and a lot harder for SSRS since it’s a web service.

   2:  using System.ServiceProcess;
   4:  string strServiceName = "";
   5:  switch (ServerType)
   6:  {
   7:  case "SSIS 2005":
   8:      strServiceName = "MsDtsServer";
   9:      break;
  10:  case "SSIS 2008":
  11:      strServiceName = "MsDtsServer100";
  12:      break;
  13:  case "SSRS":
  14:      strServiceName = "ReportServer";
  15:      break;
  16:  case "SQLServer":
  17:      strServiceName = "MSSQLServer";
  18:      break;
  19:  case "SQLAgent":
  20:      strServiceName = "SQLServerAgent";
  21:      break;
  22:  case "SSAS":
  23:      strServiceName = "MSOLAP";
  24:      break;
  26:      }
  28:  try
  29:  {
  30:  ServiceController sc = new ServiceController(strServiceName, ServerName);
  31:  switch (sc.Status)
  32:  {
  33:      case ServiceControllerStatus.Running:
  34:  Console.WriteLine(ServerName + "Running");
  35:  break;
  37:      default:
  38:  Console.WriteLine(ServerName +  " ***** Error: " + "Service is " + sc.Status);
  39:  break;
  40:  }
  41:      }
  42:      catch (Exception ex)
  43:      {
  44:  Console.WriteLine(ServerName + " ***** Server Morning Check Error:" + ex.Message);
  46:      }

Friday, 6 January 2012

Are you allowed to use social networking at Work?

I was reading this article about internet usage by staff who work for local authorities in Wales The content and context of the article seem to imply that Council staff are wasting time surfing the internet and social networking sites like twitter and Facebook instead of working. In my opinion the stance of the Tax Payers alliance in the article seems a little over the top but not wanting to get to involved in the politics involved in this article it did get me thinking about people and their employers and the internet usage policy’s in place. I have worked in places where the internet usage has been actively encouraged and I have worked in places where it has been quite severely restricted.

The most popular site for Cardiff Council was Google, no real shock here and this should come as no surprise to anyone, if you have job that requires the use of the internet then there is a fair chance that Google will be one of the most popular and frequent sites that you visit, for many people including me, Google is the  search engine of choice.

Then they move onto Social networking, and the article implies that using such sites during work is pretty a waste of Money.  The local authorities main defence is that their employees are allowed to use the internet for personal use during breaks such as lunch, which seems fair enough too.  I don’t use Facebook but I do frequent twitter which I think is a great tool. For the technical folk out there it can also be a great resource for finding answers to tricky questions, If you post a question and mark the post with the #sqlhelp hash tag on twitter then you will get a whole bunch of clever people try to help you answer your question. You are getting help from some really smart people almost instantly from around the world. It can be a great way for both business and government to interact with their clients and citizens. The UK Prime Minister through @Number10gov  has a twitter account and quite a lot of leading political figures including the President of USA has a twitter account and I believe social media in the form of facebook and twitter was key part of Barack Obhamelection campaign back in 2008.

So even though I can  understand how some employers and maybe the tax payers alliance don’t like social networking sites or the internet in general as they see it as a time sink for their employees, those business, governments and organisations that embrace it have had a great deal of success.

I was going to run a straw poll for a Friday see how other people’s employers view the internet, then I realised that if you are reading this blog then they probably have quite an open when it comes to the use of the internet :-) but still I’m keen to hear your thoughts and opinions…  

Sunday, 1 January 2012

2012: SQL Server, Olympics, Football and Darts

59838mojqzy38coToday is the first day of 2012 and some commentators and bloggers in the SQL Server blog space use this time to write blog posts  about resolutions and goals  they have set themselves for the coming year. In other sphere’s especially the political blog space, bloggers see this as a ‘slow news’ time so they take this opportunity to make predications about the coming year. Reading some of these can actually make you feel a little queasy as I haven’t read one yet that has made predictions of the great global economic recovery of 2012. In fact they all contain a certain amount of doom and gloom,

I’ll be staying away from politics and the economy and I won’t be making and resolutions or setting goals here, instead I’ll have a go at making some predictions of my own. Some technical and some not at related to technology and SQL Server. I’ll leave the technical ones until last.

The Darts. Over the Christmas break the PDC world darts championship has been taking place  and with the early exit of Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor, darts’ greatest ever all time player, the championship this year is wide open. The Semi-finals take place at tonight so I need to get this one in first. There are four players left, Andy Hamilton, James Wade, Adrian Lewis and Simon Whitlock. and my my predication is

Prediction: James Wade to win the darts. The final is tomorrow (2nd Jan) so we won’t have to wait long to find out if I;m right on this one.

The Olympic games will be coming to London this summer and it was evident from last nights New Year celebrations that this event will be getting a lot of attention from the UK press during this coming year. Let’s hope the games are huge success and go off without any problems. There are lots of events and sports that will be included but I’m only going to make two predications

Predication 100m Final: Usain Bolt.  Going with the favourite here!!

Prediction: Men's Football Tournament: Great Britain!! I know that the England football team have always failed to deliver but with the combination of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland I think that the Great British team especially with the inclusion of the Welsh contingent of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey will have excellent chance of winning the Olympic tournament.

There is also the European Football Championships to look forward to, no doubt the UK press will get over excited about England’s chances of victory and no doubt they will fail to deliver. I can’t see England under Capello’s guidance winning this tournament

Prediction: Spain

2012 is also going to be an important year for SQL Server. The latest and great version: SQL Server 2012 has been ear marked for release in the first half of this year. There has been much debate about an actual date some even thought it could be have been released in the later half of 2011, that wasn’t to be and at at PASS it was announced it would be in the first half of 2012. The launch events have been planned for the spring of 2012: Links to some of these events have been included

SQL Bits

Dev Connections 

Even though these launch events have been planned for March/April I don’t think we’ll have a release date until later in the year. Tech Ed in Amsterdam starts on 25th June 2012 and I think this will be a key date in the release of SQL Server 2012.

Prediction: SQL Server Release date: 25th June 2012

Whenever it gets released the changes in the pricing model, features and the editions those features are included in are likely to have a big impact on the uptake rate.  I’d be interested to know when your organisation plans to move to SQL Server 2012,  if in fact it you have plans to migrate at the moment?

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