Sqlroadtrip – Half Way Point

I am now at the half-way stage of my round the world trip (see part 1, part 2 and part 3).

After part 3 I went on from Kuala Lumpur to Perth. This time I flew with Singapore Airlines – an extremely good airline as far as I am concerned, the entire experience was positive. I had a short hop from Kuala Lumpur to Sinpagore and then a 5 hours flight to Perth.

There was a mix-up at my company regarding the data transport, so I arrived a full 24 hours too early in Perth. I finally caught up on some of the missing sleep – I slept a full 18 hours!

The data finally arrived and I got to work at the Perth office. The installation ran without any issues (we’ve got the rollout totally sorted by now) and even managed to do a little more testing of the performance improvements of running readonly reporting on the local server. Who would have thought it, a server in the LAN is faster than a server over WAN!!! 😀

I only saw the hotel (Esplanade in Fremantle), the office and a micro-brewery pub (The Mad Monk in Fremantle). This was the shortest stop of all so far, but I was more than happy to take that hit to allow me to have some “real” free time in New Zealand.

I arrived in Auckland this morning after an uneventful flight from Perth to Auckland. I spent the day exploring the city and adding to the photo collection. I will hopefully be meeting up with Dave Dustin (Twitter) for lunch tomorrow before jumping on my longest flight so far – Auckland to Los Angeles to Calgary. The first leg is over 10000 km and 12 hours, luckily in Premium Economy flying with Air New Zealand – a little extra legroom is always nice.

So, time for bed, the day starts early with me trying to take part in the PoSh webcast held by Aaron Nelson (Web|twitter) for the UK Sout West User Group. That’ll mean a 5am start, but my brain is scattered from timezone-hopping anyway.


Round the world in 38 days – Teil 3

If you have been following my adventures so far, then you will know that I have embarked upon a trip around the world. This trip entails setting up a load of SQL Servers for my employer. For more details, see part one and part two.

I was unable to blog whilst in Dubai and Saudi Arabia, so I have a little catching up to do.

Dubai turned out to be the highlight of the trip so far. I was staying in the Mövenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate. I managed to snag an extremely good deal on the hotel and upgraded to an executive room priced at 90 Euros a night. The hotel was absolutely brilliant and really proved the five star rating. The remainder of my trip will be comparing the other hotels to what was on offer in Dubai. I think it will be difficult to top though.

The roll-out has been pretty smooth so far. All those practice runs and copious notes seem to be paying off, who’d have thought!

Rolling into Saudi Arabia was a fun experience too. I landed at Dammam International Airport after a normal 90 minute flight from Dubai. The fun started at passport control, where I waited about 90 minutes to get processed. The men at the counters were rather lax in their work attitude, stopping to chat with their colleagues, smoke or just read a newspaper! I was luckily not waiting for a work-permit, some not so lucky Indians had already been waiting for 3 hours.

After finally collecting my suitcase, I went through to the arrivals lounge. It was then that I found out that no hotel and no pick-up had been arranged for me. Thus ensued a great deal of phoning around trying to find out who could help me out. As luck would have it, someone was still in the Dammam office. A car was sent to pick me up and a room was arranged for me at the Dhahran International Hotel. The hotel is a throw-back to the 70s (not a new hotel built to look that way). I’m sure I saw people with bell-bottom trousers and gold medaillions around their necks!

The roll-out in Dammam went equally smooth. The local IT man really looked after me while I was there. He took me to a couple of local restaurants for lunch, where I gorged on the brilliant arabian food on offer.

I then set off to my next destination – Kuala Lumpur. This was to be the longest leg of the trip so far, involving 3 flights. Dammam to Dubai, Dubai to Bangkok, Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur. I got to Dubai without any problems and treated myself to 3 hours of lounge access. I attacked the buffet and had a few beers to relax before the 6 hour flight to Bangkok.

The real fun started on the flight to Bangkok – Thai Airlines Flght TG 518. This will be burned in my brain until I die. I had a comfortable seat (32A) in a relatively new A330. The flight started nicely and I got stuck into the onboard film. Things changed when the food arrived. I tried the side salad (something with fish) and it didn’t taste right. 20 minutes later, my body decided that the fish really wasn’t right. I spent the remainder of the flight in a delirious cold sweat, running to the bathroom to throw-up. I can safely say, that was the longest 5 1/2 hours of my life.

The flight from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur was a little better as I fell into a deep sleep.

All is well again this morning. I setup the system in Kuala Lumpur and have a day off tomorrow. I hope to climb the Patronas Towers and take a look around the city before flying to Perth on Sunday.

So, time to shut up shop for the day and relax a little. I’m only half way round the world and the travelling and time difference are certainly taking their toll!


Sqlroadtrip part deux

Hello again!

Here is an update on the #sqlroadtrip, which started out in Switzerland (part one of the trip).

I have spent the last few days in Kiev in the Ukraine. I arrived at 01:30 (EET) at the airport and spent the next 45 minutes waiting for passport control. They had 8 control gates, but only two open!? They are seriously expanding the airport in preparation for the european football championships next year. This is also the reason for all the road works in and around the city.

I was driven from the airport to the hotel (Rus Hotel, Kiev), where I slept until 9am (local time = CET+1). Then setup our replication system. After 4 hours, and only one error message, I was done!

I went to the hotel, had some rather uninspiring food and some cheap Danish and Ukrainian beer, then fell into a deep sleep.

The following day was spent checking the replication was working properly (it was) and explaining the replication system to the people in the office. We are running transactional replication to allow reporting offloading for each office. It is quite impressive to see our data being updated at near real-time (~5 seconds), even to the offices with the worst network connection. They were happy about the new system, but also gave me a lot of information to take back to HQ regarding performance problems. The perceived performance is different to the measured performance. I have already identified areas in our software that can be optimised for a better user experience, where the devs back home would think the behaviour/performance is acceptable.

I will finish up today and make sure the next location is ready for the replication, then check out some sights around the centre of Kiev. After that, it will be time to pack up and get ready for my next flight. I check out of the hotel tomorrow morning at 08:00 (EET) and take a flight from Kiev to Vienna 10:50 (EET) departure, arriving 11:55 (CET). This is followed by a 90 minute layover and then an Austrian Airlines flight to Dubai (13:30 CET depart, 21:10 GST arrival).

The colleagues from the Kiev office have been really friendly and helpful the entire time. The same can be said for the majority of the people I met. I can definitely recommend Kiev as a holiday location, or at least as a place on a european tour. Most young people speak English, which is good if you can’t speak/read Ukranian or Russian!

Check back again soon for the next part of my #sqlroadtrip, where you will see what I get up to in the Middle East.

Just as a teaser, I will be staying in a slightly better hotel in Dubai, details to follow when I have arrived 🙂

Round the world in 38 days

Saturday 28th May 2011:

Here I am in Zurich airport waiting for my next flight in my round the world trip.

Maybe I should back up a little and explain.

Without going into too many details and possibly getting in trouble with work, they want me to go to some of our branch offices to setup some sql servers and get replication up and running. This project has been in the planning stages for millenia and it finally got the green light. I found out on Wednesday evening (25.05) that I would be starting my trip on Friday (27.05). My first port of call was our company headquarters in Switzerland, so that meant jumping on a plane on Friday morning and flying down to HQ.

Whilst there, I made the finishing touches to the setup and initialised the third branch office and created a snapshot of the data. This took me until this morning (28.05 – 03:00 CET), after which I had a 3 hour nap. I then went back to the office and got my stuff together ready for my trip to the first branch office in Kiev (we had done two offices as a practice run).

I then drove back up to Zurich to take my next flight, Zurich to Frankfurt (where I am whilst writing this). This is basically the warm-up for the real thing, as my Star Alliance “Around The World” Ticket starts in Frankfurt and takes me to Kiev, Dubai, Damamm, Dubai (again), Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Perth, Auckland, Los Angeles, Calgary, Houston, Veracruz, Houston (again), Rio de Janeiro, Frankfurt, Muenster. This is *by far* the most international travel I have ever done in my life (over 36000 miles), and it is all compressed into a 5 week schedule! I finally arrive home on the 4th of July. Right on time to see my parents (who are stopping by on a road-trip through europe), then celebrate my wife’s birthday on the 8th of July and, last but not least, go on holiday on the 10th of July.

To take a look at the route, follow this link: Great Circle Mapper

I shall be documenting the trip here and via the twitter hash-tag #sqlroadtrip, so keep coming back to see what I’ve been up to.

Good News / Bad News

Given the choice, most people want to hear the bad news before the good:

The Bad News

I recently found out that the owner of Atlantis Interactive has decided to throw in the towel with regards to his absolutely amazing SQL Server Tools and IDE.

Matt Whitfield has produced (on his own) a set of tools that puts a lot of full blown companies to shame! The IDE SQL Everywhere is a complete replacement for SSMS, but boasts a number of improvements/extra features that seem blindingly obvious when you see them in SQL Everywhere. My favourites are “extract as CTE” where you mark some code and allow SQL Everywhere to create a CTE for you, and the smart renaming of variables/aliases etc.

When I heard that he had made this decision, I could understand it, but still find it a shame. He was obviously in a hard market to start with, with some very firm competition. I am still surprised that the tools haven’t made any noticeable headway – there are loads of people looking for good tools, even in the niche of T-SQL development.

The Good News

Matt has not decided to throw away all that he created. He has unlocked all the tools and set them free! His blood, sweat and tears (well, not so much blood – I hope!) have not been wasted.

If you have had enough of the limitations of SSMS intellisense, or general SSMS strangeness, take a good look at SQL Everywhere. Whilst you are there, have a look at the other great tools he created, you will be surprised at what you find.

My hat goes off to him and I hope that this setback doesn’t stop him from giving it another go in the future.

@Matt – if you read this, I’m looking forward to meeting you at SQLBits. I would love to hear about any other ideas you have on the back burner 🙂

SQLBits here I come

I recently found out that I am, unfortunately, not Charlie Bucket. The people over at SQLskills were offering a free ticket to one of their Microsoft Certified Master training camps dubbed SQLskills Master Immersion Events.

I entered into the competition on the off chance that I was picked and got to go to one of their week long training events. The gods were not smiling on me that day and I wasn’t chosen 😦

However, this has not deterred me from continuing my quest for awesome training. I mentioned in my entry to the SQLskills competition that I would be going to SQLBits VIII. I have now completed all the preparations to be able to go there in April.

I will be attending the Friday training day and the Saturday community day and am looking forward to it. I know a couple of the people on the speakers list (the Saturday sessions are still open to voting, so the list may change yet) and hope to either catch up with them (Andre Kamman / Blog – we met at the PASS Summit in Seattle) or finally meet them in person (Matt Whitfield / Blog – we met online at ASK).

I am also hoping to meet up with a couple of other people from the ASK) site (in no particular order):

Jonathan Allen
Kev Riley
Thomas Rushton

They have all helped me a great deal in the last 6 months and I think a pint is in order! On top of which I would love to finally meet some SQL people from the UK, they are very thin on the ground where I live.

I also plan on making this a sort of reconnaissance mission for my employer. They recently made it clear that the PASS Summit is too pricey and I have been inofficially tasked with finding top-rated training a little closer to home. The videos of previous SQLBits conferences are very promising, so I expect things to work out well on that front.

I’ll be staying at the Best Western in Brighton, just down the road from the conference. As this is on my tab, The Grand was a little too much for my wallet to handle (maybe work will foot the bill the next time and SQLBits will be at the Ritz).

I look forward to meeting people and learning a few new things whilst I’m beside the seaside, beside the sea.

Hope to see you there.

Am I Charlie Bucket?

I started out a lowly sysadmin, with little prospects of moving on and up. My previous job gave me a little insight into DBase databases before a big software switch threw me into the path of SQL Server. I floundered for a while, then started reading and trying things out with the help of several awesome professionals online (thanks SQL Server Central). This was the status quo for two years, training was something you did when you were back at school!

I was then lucky to move to a company that believes in training. I have been even more lucky to have seen Kim and Paul at the PASS Summit in Seattle and can appreciate the high quality of their training. Unfortunately, the Summit has now been deemed “uneconomical”, as has other training apart from going to local events (pretty thin on the ground here in NW Germany).

This has not stopped me though, I am going to SQLBits in the UK out of my own pocket (there goes my summer holiday reserves) and I am really excited about that. I have gained a great deal of technical knowledge through the Summit, 24HOP and the other community events, but most of all I learned that giving is better than receiving. I have made the decision to improve my knowledge by helping others – my first steps have been to start a blog and to help out online on SQLServercentral.com. I plan to get more invlolved in the community and hopefully build up the knowledge and courage to speak at user groups and training days.

The first part of my plan is to build up my knowledge – this is where Kim and Paul come into it. Their company SQLskills is running a series of training camps to prepare people for the Microsoft Certified Master program. They are designed to explain all aspects of SQL Server to a depth suitable to have you ready for the MCM exam. These SQLskills Immersion Events sound amazing! The pre-con I saw by them at the PASS Summit was mindblowing and that was *just* 8 hours, expand that to a whole week and I think I’ll be getting nosebleeds by the end of the second day. A bit of blood loss is more than worth the amount of information I know they will be packing into the week-long deep dives – what a shame my company won’t be sending me on those courses then……

But wait! Kim and Paul have offered a “Willy Wonka Golden Ticket” – one lucky Database Professional can win a free week-long training course. So I am taking part in the prize draw with this blog post.

If I really am Charlie Bucket (and get that ticket) I will beg, borrow or steal to get the rest of the trip financed. A quick look on travel sites say it would be around $1000 – not bad for a trans-atlantic flight and hotel for a week.

I would then spend the week soaking up as much information as I can – hopefully not asking too many stupid questions – and then take step two in my master plan: paying it forward. I will tackle a couple of topics at a (not-so) local user group and take it from there.

My ultimate aim is to help (even it it is just one) database professional with the knowledge I have and give them that feeling of having understood and fixed a problem on their own. “Give a man a fish….” as they say.

So dear reader, it is up to you (well it is up to Kim and Paul), to decide if I really am Charlie Bucket. Just like him, if I don’t win, it was not meant to be. However, if I do win, I will be taking a glass lift ride that I’m sure I will never forget.