World of Whatever

A blog about SQL Server, SSIS, C# and whatever else I happen to be dealing with in my professional life.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

I am not an MVP

I am not a SQL Server MVP, but I'm happy I had the opportunity to go through the process. I am grateful to the awesome but unnamed MVP that tossed my hat into the ring.

It seems that every quarter there's always some heartache and disappointment from those that didn't make the cut. I know I kept hoping I'd just magically show up on Microsoft's radar and *poof*, MVP. Now that I know more about how this works, I thought it might be helpful to share it with others.

What is the process?

It starts rather simply: someone, even you, fills out a nomination form on the MVP site. For me, this happened in early February. I then received an email inviting me to fill out a form covering the past 15 or 18 months of activity. I guess this is the first culling of nominees. You only have one shot while filling out this form so make sure it's complete before hitting submit. There's no opportunity to revise it once you click submit but it does allow you to save your progress as you fill it out.

Phase 2

At the end of April, the MVP Community Program Manager reached out to me and had me fill out more forms, this time only covering the 12 months prior to my candidacy period so May 1, 2013 to April 30, 2014. The crux of that was "all I am looking for is an organized, concise and efficient breakdown of your activities that is simple to digest."

Phase 3

At some point between the submission, the folks evaluate all the candidates and make their selection. You aren't notified if you don't make the cut. The email states "Currently you are still under consideration for a Microsoft MVP Award. If you are awarded as an MVP, you will receive a separate communication around beginning of July 2014 from the MVP Award Program administrator. If not awarded, no notification will be sent." A little birdie told me that others have gotten their positive acknowledgement already (June 26) and since my email's at inbox zero, I can draw my own conclusions.

Why me

Beyond my general arrogance and hubris, I thought I'd done quite a bit for the community but since I had nothing to measure against, it was hard to tell where I fell on the spectrum. It was a bit frustrating that the accumulative effect doesn't count. I've organized all 5 of Kansas City's SQL Saturdays, but only one of them counted since that was within the time boundary.

What I thought qualified me from a quantitative perspective was

  • blogging
  • presenting
  • organizing
  • stackoverflowing
This past year was my most productive from a blog perspective. The Biml stuff dang near writes itself. I averaged a presentation, either user group or SQL Saturday, a month with one of those being the 2013 Summit. SQL Saturday 191 was our biggest event yet with 300+ attendees. On StackOverflow I earned my gold badge for SSIS. Gold badge definition: Earned at least 1000 total score for at least 200 non-community wiki answers in the ssis tag. That's going to be a pretty tall order to top.


I collected a lot of numbers to try and tell the story in an interesting way and while I have Tufte books, I don't live and breath it. But my amazing, awesome and super talented coworker, Meagan Longoria (b|t) does. She can quote you Tufte and Few, chapter and verse, and she was kind enough to pull this infographic together.


Keep track of what you do. The Phase 2 document breaks activity down into
  • Speaking Engagements
  • User Group Participation (include presentations under Speaking)
  • Event Organizer or Chair (other than user group leader/organizer)
  • Forum Activity
  • Blogging
  • Publishing
  • Twitter/Social Media
  • Other

For Speaking engagements, they will want to know how many people were there. For UG activity, they want to know total group size, frequency of meetings, and average attendance. Event Organizer - how many people attended. Forums, they are interested in quantity of answers plus any answers that you wanted to provide as a highlight. Blogging, they care about your numbers reached per month. Publishing, what and how many things? Twitter/social media, it only asks how many followers you had an links to your account.

That was a pain the backside to pull some of that data together. I had a general idea of how many people were at my UG/SQL Saturday presentations, but was that room big? It seemed full but was full 25 people or 45? While was a cute way to get data out of the site, it still left me wanting as I had to change my user id per site.

Beyond that, since my recipe didn't work, I can't say what else is needed if you want to be an MVP. I am thankful for everyone who helped me along the way. And to those newly awarded or renewed, a hearty congratulations. For those that were not renewed, thank you for your efforts. #mvpbuzz

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Solving the wrong problem

One of the new architects sent out an email and in fine engineer fashion, I decided to focus on the question that was asked and obtusely miss the point. Plus, it was an opportunity for me to dust off some long forgotten python programming.

Problem definition

If: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Is equal to;
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26


H+A+R+D+W+O+R+K ;

K+N+O+W+L+E+D+G+E ;

12+15+22+5 = 54%

L+U+C+K ;
12+21+3+11 =47%

None of them makes 100%.

Then what makes 100% ???

Is it Money?
NO !!! M+O+N+E+Y= 13+15+14+5+25=72%

NO !!! L+E+A+D+E+R+S+H+I+P= 12+5+1+4+5+18+19+8+9+16=97%

Every problem has a solution, only if we perhaps change our "ATTITUDE".

A+T+T+I+T+U+D+E ;
1+20+20+9+20+21+4+5 = 100%

It is therefore OUR ATTITUDE towards Life and Work that makes OUR Life 100% Successful.. 

What makes 100%?

Ignoring that it's not a percent, but really what words add up to 100 given the supplied 1 based translation system... well, that just sounded like a fun nerdy challenge.

Python to the rescue

If you've never heard me talk about it, I loved the 3ish years I spent writing python code to parse all these random source files we'd receive and push it into our marketing databases. Once you get over the whitespace thing with python, you'll likely agree that it's one of the more beautiful and elegant languages out there.

Capital A is ASCII value 65; Z is 90; a is 97 and z is 122. Knowing this, if I make everything uppercase, convert each letter to its ordinal value and subtract 64, and then add up all the values, I should be able to identify the value of a particular word. Piece of cake.

# create a variable to hold our translation between ASCII and percent value
offset = 64

def WordValue(word):
    # compute the value for each character
    # convert to upper case and subtract 64 to get it to 1-26
    return sum([(ord(c)-offset) for c in word.upper()])

# Create a word list. I cribbed from
f  = open('/Users/bfellows/qualities.txt')

# Create an empty list to hold all matching words. Since my source has duplicates,
# I will want to filter them out
l = []

# rip through my file line by line
for line in
    # Test whether our summed value matches the target
    if WordValue(line) == 100:
        # keep track of everything that matches

# Enumerate through all of our matches
for item in set(l):
    # Display matches to the screen
    print item

Source data

As I indicated in the code, I simply took some of the word lists from and appended them to a text file---one row per word. Sample data follows

What makes 100%?

Based on the 2360 words in my source file, besides Attitude, the following words will also give 100%
  • prevent
  • telescope
  • Congress
  • hospital
  • ornament
  • telephone
  • boycott
  • culture
  • inflation
  • excellent
  • writing
  • interfere
  • repress
  • lightning
Now I'm torn between re-writing this in R versus trying to use the native system dictionaries...

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Biml - RebuildIndex Task

Biml - RebuildIndex Task

The maintenance task, Rebuild Index Task, described with Biml. By now you know the drill, it requires an ADO.NET Connection Manager to work.

<Biml xmlns="">
                    Name="RI All Tables">
                    Rebuild the index on a specific view
                    Name="RI Specific View"


The above Biml describes a package that creates two Rebuild Index Tasks. The first rebuilds on all the tables while the second targets a specific indexed view.

RI All Tables

Here we reindex all the tables in all the databases.

RI Specific View

This snippet of Biml describes reindexing a specific view, Production.vProductAndDescription in the AdventureWorks2012 database.

Specify Database

Specify the database(s) we should use. Normally, I'd have trimmed out the empty space at the top of the window there but I left it as is to point out the wasted real estate. It's like there's a missing title block.

Specify Object

Here we're selecting the one object we're interested in re-indexing.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Biml - Notify Operator Task

Biml - Notify Operator Task

The maintenance task Notify Operator contacts the pre-defined operators. It requires an ADO.NET connection manager to work. Specify the operator, subject and message contents and away you go.

<Biml xmlns="">
        <AdoNetConnection Name="CM_ADO_DB" ConnectionString="Data Source=localhost\dev2012;Integrated Security=SSPI;Connect Timeout=30;Database=msdb;" Provider="SQL"  />

        <Package ConstraintMode="Linear" Name="Task_NotifyOperator">
                <Variable Name="OperatorName" DataType="String">Ops</Variable>
                <Variable Name="Subject" DataType="String">Look here</Variable>
                <Variable Name="Message" DataType="String">Things have gone south</Variable>
                <Variable Name="Query" DataType="String" EvaluateAsExpression="true">"
DECLARE @OpName sysname = 'Ops';

    SELECT * 
    FROM msdb.dbo.sysoperators AS SO 
    WHERE = @OpName
EXECUTE msdb.dbo.sp_add_operator 
    @name = @OpName
,   @enabled = 1
,   @pager_days = 0
,   @email_address = N'';
                    Name="SQL Create Operator">
                    <VariableInput VariableName="User.Query" />
                    Name="NO Ack">
                    <Message>Body of the notification</Message>
                        <Expression PropertyName="Subject">@[User::Subject]</Expression>
                        <!--<Expression PropertyName="OperatorName">@[User::Subject]</Expression>-->
                        <Expression PropertyName="Message">@[User::Message]</Expression>


A package is created with an Execute SQL Task to ensure our Operator exists and then an actual Notify Operator Task is dropped into our Control Flow.

NO Ack

This is our Notify Operator task and it acknowledges the errors on the server.


I could figure out how to configure the message and the subject but couldn't figure out how to set the Operator name via expression.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Biml - Message Queue Task

Biml - Message Queue Task

Why have one tool when you can multiples? In this case, queuing technologies. As a SQL Server professional, I was aware of Service Broker but there's a whole native queuing technology built into Windows: Microsoft Message Queuing. Until doing the research on the SSIS Message Queue Task, I had assumed it pulled from Service Broker. Yeah, well assumptions...

MSMQ Setup

I originally created a private queue on a different box than I was running my package on but the native Message Queue Task can't converse with a remote server. MSDN has a write up on how you can use a script task to talk to a remote private queue


<Biml xmlns="">
        <MsmqConnection Name="CM_MSMQ" Path=".\private$\POC" />

        <Package ConstraintMode="Linear" Name="Task_MessageQueue">
                <Variable Name="MessageSource" DataType="String">What God hath wrought</Variable>
                <Variable Name="MessageReceipt" DataType="String"></Variable>
                    Name="MQ Send Message"
                    <VariableInput VariableName="User.MessageSource"></VariableInput>
                        <Expression PropertyName="MessageString">@[User::MessageSource]</Expression>

                    Name="MQ Receive Message"
                    <StringVariableOutput VariableName="User.MessageReceipt" />


A package is created with a pair of Message Queue Tasks. One to send and one to receive. There are two Variables: MessageSource and MessageReceipt, both of type String. MessageSource is preloaded with a value of What God hath wrought. After execution, if all went well, that value will be loaded into MessageReceipt. All of this will use our MSMQ connection manager, CM_MSMQ.


Here's a screenshot of what the connection manager looks like. The value of the path is .\private$\POC to indicate the message queue server is local, it's a private queue named POC.

MQ Send Message

A send message task will put our message onto our private queue, POC.

General tab

We have set the task to send a message

Send tab

Sent tab is set to send an unencrypted message. While the StringMessage property appears to be hard coded, that's just an artifact of how the UI works.


The MessageString is actually configured based on our @[User::MessageSource] Variable.

MQ Receive Message

A receive message task will pull messages off the queue and assign their value to our Variable.

General tab

The task is configured to receive messages. As you'll see, there's no need for expressions on this task.

Receive tab

In the Receive tab, we remove them from the source queue and assign the message into our Variable User::MessageReceipt.

Execution Results

Green is good. Even better is that the value of @[User::MessageReceipt] matches @[User::MessageSource]

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Biml - Maintenance Cleanup Task

Biml - Maintenance Cleanup Task

The Maintenance Cleanup Task removes artifacts from maintenance plans, backups, reports, etc. As with other Maintenace Tasks, this requires an ADO.NET Connection Manager.

<Biml xmlns="">
        <AdoNetConnection Name="CM_ADO_DB" ConnectionString="Data Source=localhost\dev2012;Integrated Security=SSPI;Connect Timeout=30;Database=msdb;" Provider="SQL"  />

        <Package ConstraintMode="Linear" Name="Task_MaintenanceCleanup">
                <Variable Name="FileExtension" DataType="String">bacon</Variable>
                <Variable Name="FolderBase" DataType="String">J:\Backup</Variable>
                <Variable Name="InstanceName" DataType="String">WESTMARCH$DEV2012</Variable>
                <Variable Name="DatabaseName" DataType="String">Adventureworks2012</Variable>
                <Variable Name="FolderPath" DataType="String" EvaluateAsExpression="true">@[User::FolderBase] + "\\" + @[User::InstanceName] + "\\" + @[User::DatabaseName] </Variable>
                    Name="MC Clean backup files" 
                    <!-- Delete all the bacon -->
                        <Expression PropertyName="FolderPath">@[User::FolderPath]</Expression>
                        <Expression PropertyName="FileExtension">@[User::FileExtension]</Expression>


A package is created with Variables to control the FileExtension and FolderPath that are removed. I'm basing the three Variables that build my FolderPath variable based on the default output of Ola's Maintenance plans.

MC Clean Backup Files

Great googly-moogly, someone's attempting to get rid of all the bacon! Well, at least any Backup files that are in the first-level subfolder, with an extension of bacon, that are older than 4 weeks.


As you can see, I've applied an Expression to control both FileExtension and FolderPath based on our user Variables.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Biml - History Cleanup Task

Biml - History Cleanup Task

The History Cleanup Task is another of those Database Maintenance tasks that I never use. It requires an ADO connection manager and allows you to cleanup any combination of backup and restore history, SQL Server Agent history and Maintenance plan history.

<Biml xmlns="">
        <AdoNetConnection Name="CM_ADO_DB" ConnectionString="Data Source=localhost\dev2012;Integrated Security=SSPI;Connect Timeout=30;Database=msdb;" Provider="SQL"  />

        <Package ConstraintMode="Linear" Name="Task_HistoryCleanup">
                <!-- Look busy without doing anything -->
                    Name="HC Clean as my children do"


A package is created with our ADO.NET connection manager and a single Cleanup History task.

HC Clean as my children doa

I've configured the History Cleanup task to do nothing.

I love that it actually warns you of this as you click the View T-SQL button