Join me in DC for a full day of Biml

I’m excited to announce that my Linchpin People colleague Reeves Smith and I will be delivering a full day Biml preconference seminar the day before the upcoming SQL Saturday in Washington, DC.  This seminar, entitled “Getting Started with Biml”, will introduce attendees to the awesomeness of Business Intelligence Markup Language (Biml). 

In this course, we’ll cover the basics of Biml syntax, show how to use BimlScript to make package creation even more dynamic, and will demonstrate lots of design patterns through numerous demos.

Registration is now open for this course.  Lunch will be provided.  We hope to see you there!

SQL PASS 2014 Summit Diary – Day 6

Today is the last official day of the PASS Summit.  The sessions will wrap up at the end of the day, and we’ll all go our separate ways and resume our semi-normal lives.  Having delivered my presentation yesterday, my official PASS duties are over, and I’m planning to spend the day taking in a few sessions and networking.

IMG_694808:15am: No keynote today, so the sessions are starting first thing in the morning.  I’m sitting in on a Power BI session delivered by my friend Adam Saxton.  He’s an excellent and knowledgeable presenter, and I always enjoy attending his presentations.  For Power BI, this has been one piece of the Microsoft BI stack that I have largely ignored due to the fact that it runs exclusively in the cloud.  However, I’d like to get up to speed on the cloud BI offerings – even though the on-premises solutions will continue to represent the overwhelming majority of business intelligence initiatives (in terms of data volume as well as Microsoft revenue), I expect to be fluent in all of the Microsoft BI offerings, whether “earthed” or cloud-based.

11:00am: After stopping by the Linchpin booth again, I sit down in the PASS Community Zone.  And by sit down, I mean that I collapse, exhausted, into one of the bean bags.  I spent some time chatting with Pat Wright, Doug Purnell, and others, and met up with Julie Smith and Brian Davis to talk about a project we’re working on together (more on that later).

11:45am: Lunch.  Today is the Birds of a Feather lunch, in which each table is assigned a particular SQL Server-related topic for discussion.  I headed over with my Colorado buddies Russ Thomas and Matt Scardino to the DQS/MDS table, at which only two other folks were sitting (one of whom worked for Microsoft).  We had a nice chat about DQS and data quality in general.  I have to admit a bit of frustration with the lack of updates in DQS in the last release of SQL Server.  I still firmly believe that the core of DQS is solid and would be heavily used if only the deficiencies in the interface (or the absence of a publicly documented API) were addressed.

02:45pm: I don’t know why, but I want to take a certification exam.  The PASS Summit organizers have arranged for an onsite testing center, and they are offering half price for exams this week for attendees of the summit.  I registered for the 70-463 DW exam, and after sweating through the MDS and column store questions, I squeaked through the exam with a passing score.  I’m not a huge advocate for Microsoft certification exams – I find that many of the questions asked are not relevant in real-world scenarios, they are too easy to cheat, and I’m still very skeptical of Microsoft’s commitment to the education track as a whole after they abruptly and mercilessly killed the MCM program (via email, under cover of darkness on a holiday weekend, no less) – so I’m likely not jumping back into a full-blown pursuit of Microsoft certification any time soon.  Still, it was somewhat satisfying to take and pass the test without prep.

04:00pm: Back in the community zone.  Lots of folks saying their good-byes, others who are staying the night are making plans for later in the evening.  For me?  I’ve been craving some seafood from the Crab Pot all week, and I find 6 willing participants to join me.  I’m also planning a return trip to the Seattle Underground Tour.  For the record, I love having this community zone, and I particularly dig it right here on the walkway – it’s a visible, high-traffic location, and it’s been full of people every time I’ve come by.

06:30pm: An all-out assault on the crab population has commenced.  And by the way, our group of 6 became 12, which became 15, which became 20-something (and still growing).  Our poor waiter is frazzled.  I told him we’ll be back next October, in case he wants to take that week off.

image08:00pm: Seattle Underground tour.  I did this a couple of years ago with a smaller group, and it was a lot of fun.  This year, we’ve got 15 or so PASS Summit attendees here, and we get a really good tour guide this time.

09:45pm: My friend from down under, Rob Farley, turns 40 today, and about a hundred of us stop by his birthday party.

10:30pm: This may be the earliest I have ever retired on the last night of any summit.  I’m just exhausted.  I do some minimal packing and prep for tomorrow morning and crash for the evening.

Apart from any last-minute goodbyes at the airport tomorrow, the SQL PASS 2014 Summit is over for me.  Without a doubt, this was the best, most fulfilling, most thoroughly exhausting summit experience I’ve had in my seven years of attendance.  I’m sad to be leaving, but couldn’t feel more satisfied.

SQL PASS Summit 2014 Diary – Days 3-5

The last two days have been an absolute blur.  As I first posted this week, I had planned to blog daily about my goings-on, but I’ve been running nonstop – all good things, fortunately – but it interrupted my plans to blog every day.

Day 3: Tuesday

08:00am: Headed back to the MVP Summit.  Rain again.

06:00pm: Back in Seattle, and off to the BI Over Beers event with my friends from Varigence.

10:30pm: More karaoke at the event sponsored by Denny Cherry and SIOS.  Lots of fun, but it’s really loud and crowded (or perhaps I’m getting old).  I take some pictures, including a few incriminating mechanical bull snapshots, and head back to the hotel.  Surprisingly in bed by midnight again.

Day 4: Wednesday

08:15am: Today is the first full day of the SQL PASS Summit.  It’s keynote time.  Usually the first-day keynote is marketing heavy, and that is the case for today.  There are several interesting demos, including one from PIer 1 in which they are mapping store traffic areas using the Kinect (yes, the XBox gaming interface) to detect which areas of their stores are most heavily trafficked.

10:30am: I’m sitting in Ryan Adams’ session on AlwaysOn.  This is a bit outside my area of expertise, so it’s good to see some of this administrative stuff.

11:45pm: Lunch with the Microsoft executives.  I love how open they are to chatting with community influencers.

12:30pm: Hanging out at the Linchpin People booth in the exhibitor area. Lots of great conversations with friends and passersby.

06:00pm: It’s time for the exhibitor reception.  We are getting lots of folks at the Linchpin booth!  Looking forward to seeing these folks at our party later tonight.

08:00pm: Linchpin People party at the Rhein Haus.  We’re hanging out with about 150 of our closest friends, learning to play bocce ball.  It was great seeing some folks I know and meeting some new ones.

12:15pm: Back at the room, exhausted.

Day 5: Thursday

08:00am: Arrived in the keynote room a bit early.  A much smaller crowd than yesterday. Sadly, I fear that the marketing presentation yesterday may have scared away some of the attendees, but today is likely the content they really came to hear.

10:00am: Dr. Rimma Nehme is one of the best speakers I’ve heard at a PASS Summit, ever.  She’s done a great job of laying out the cloud offerings and how they might fit into a larger data ecosystem.

10:30am: Hanging out at the Linchpin booth, thinking through my session for this afternoon.

11:15am: I found the speaker lounge (not to be confused with the speaker ready room).  We have an actual fire pit in here.  And snacks.

01:30pm: My presentation entitled “Building Bullet-Resistant SSIS Packages”. Wow, what a crowd!  Rough guess, 325 people including those sitting and standing in the back of the room.  Thanks everyone for coming and for staying awake and engaged (which I know can be difficult right after lunch Smile).

02:45pm: And my official work at the PASS Summit is officially done.  Now time to enjoy some sessions and networking.  First thing: Meet up with my friend Phil to talk through a Biml problem he’s having.

04:45pm: On my way to a session and I run into one of the guys from Pluralsight.  They’ve been doing some cool things lately, and I’m considering partnering with them to do some online content.

06:00pm: I missed lunch today due to my presentation. Grabbing a quick bite with my friend Rafael Salas.

07:00pm: Stopping by the attendee party at the EMP Museum.  I was here two years ago for that year’s attendee party, but I ended up chatting with a bunch of folks and never even made it past the lobby.  This year I took a little time to explore the museum.  I particularly enjoyed the shrine to Nirvana.

09:30pm: A half-hour of actual downtime in my hotel room, before heading out to meet some friends.

12:45am: Exhausted but happy.  What a great day.

Tomorrow is the last day of the summit.  Normally, I’m ready for some quiet me-time by the end of the week, but this year I’m very much looking forward to networking as much as possible before I leave on Saturday.

PASS Summit 2014 Diary – Day 2

It’s another beautiful day in Seattle. And by beautiful, I mean overcast and threatening rain.  Today will be mostly consumed by the MVP Summit, with some fun stuff scheduled for later in the day.  At 6pm today, I’m headed back to the Tap House for BI Over Beers, a gathering of business intelligence professionals sponsored by Varigence.

08:00am: On the bus to the MVP Summit.

rain08:30am: Hey look, it’s raining.

08:40am: Hey look, I’m standing in the rain.

05:30pm: MVP Summit finished up for the day, and we’re headed back to Seattle for several events tonight.  Lots of traffic so it’s a slow ride, but I’m getting to catch up with Aaron Nelson.

06:15pm: I’m attending the BI Over Beers event hosted by my friends at Varigence.  We’re in the large billiard room at the Tap House, with a good crowd of 100 or so folks.

IMG_690108:00pm: Stopping by the Yardhouse to attend the networking event organized by Steve Jones and Andy Warren. Not a huge group here, but they had to change locations at the last minute due to some logistical issues.  Also learned that Andy Warren has had to skip the summit this year, so I’ll definitely miss seeing him this week.

09:30pm: A small group of us have arranged to meet up at the Monkey Pub in Seattle.  It’s a relatively small place, with just a few other locals in addition to the 15 or so SQL folks in our group.  Delight of the evening: Brian and Penny Moran entertaining us with Jimmy Buffet songs.  Twitter reports that there is another SQL Karaoke event over at Bush Garden, though I have to admit that I’m enjoying this low-key group tonight.

12:30am: The SQL Karaoke party breaks up and everyone heads back to their hotels.  Most of us have early activities in the morning, so it’s a race to squeeze in as much sleep as possible.  (And thanks to Argenis Fernandez for the ride back to the hotel)

Tomorrow is my last day at the MVP Summit this week, with the rest of the week reserved for PASS Summit activities.  Tomorrow night’s big event is the PASS welcome reception, followed by the karaoke event (yes, another one) organized by Denny Cherry.

PASS Summit 2014 Diary – Day 1

Today is the first day of official activities for the week.  The PASS Summit hasn’t yet started, but I’ll be spending the day at the MVP Summit, surrounded by a few hundred people much smarter than I am.  The details of the MVP Summit are all covered under NDA, so today’s update will be brief.

IMG_688206:00am: I woke up and saw that the clock read 7:00am.  After a brief moment of panic, I realized that I hadn’t slept through my alarm, but had simply neglected to change the alarm clock in the hotel room.  For once, I’m happy about the whole DST time change.

07:15am: Breakfast at the top of the Hilton.  There’s a great view from the 29th floor, with a  panoramic look over the sound (and the picture to the right doesn’t really do it justice).

08:00am: Headed to the MVP summit.

09:00pm: After the MVP Summit activities, I’m back in Seattle to drop my stuff off and meet up with some folks.  I found my friend Keith Tate wandering around in the Sheraton lobby, and we all wandered over to Tap House.  There’s already a sizeable group of folks here.

09:45pm: I still suck at playing pool.

10:15pm: Found my friend and fellow Texan Jim Murphy.  He tells me about how his business is going while I make fun of his oversized fruity drink.  I also got to catch up with Paul Waters, Phil Helmer, and others.

11:30pm: For the second day in a row, and against all odds, I’m headed back to the hotel before midnight.  After a quick stop at the front desk – I left my card key in the room and had to get a replacement.

Tomorrow is another long day, though I expect to be back in Seattle earlier in the day.  I’m looking forward to catching up with folks at two different events (at the same time, of course) tomorrow, followed by a smaller gathering with a few friends.  More tomorrow….

PASS Summit 2014 Diary – Day 0

This week, I’m attending two different summit events in the Seattle area.  On Sunday through Tuesday, I’ll be participating in the Microsoft MVP Summit in Bellevue, Washington.  For the remainder of the week, I’ll be attending and presenting at the PASS Summit in Seattle.  Although there is much I won’t be sharing (especially at the beginning of the week), I’m going to blog each day to share my travel tales and any non-NDA information I can.

Today is Day 0, the day on which I’m traveling from Dallas to Seattle and getting checked into my hotel.  There aren’t any official summit events taking place today, but I expect there will be plenty of goings-on to discuss.

06:45am: The day gets started with a text from my friend Ryan Adams.  He’s my ride to the airport, and he’s just pulled up out front.  My body reminds me that it’s quite early.  I’ve just come back yesterday from a trip to visit a client on the east coast, and couple the time difference with a short night of sleep and I’m still quite groggy.  First stop: coffee.

IMG_687009:30am: After a brief delay, I’m onboard.  There’s a dog barking. On the plane.  This could be a long flight.

10:30am: The dog finally stopped barking.  I reminded myself that the thing I’m most excited about, even more than the excellent technical sessions, is the fact that I’ll be spending the next week with scores of treasured friends and colleagues.  This inspired me to crank out a new blog post: Five people you should meet at the PASS Summit.

11:30am: Arrived at SEATAC and met up with Reeves Smith, where he, Ryan, and me took the train back to downtown Seattle.

02:00pm: After dropping stuff off at the hotel, we’re meeting up with Carlos Bossy, one of my favorite Denver people, and decide to get some lunch at Lowell’s in the Pike Place Market.

IMG_687903:00pm: Back at the Sheraton, we bump into Rob Farley and chat with him for a while.  We learn that he has a twin brother, which is both delightful and frightening.

05:30pm: It’s hard to believe that I’ve been in town for six hours and I’m only just now making it to the Tap House.  Hanging out with Mark Vaillancourt, Kerry Tyler, Tamera Clark, Brad Ball, and others.

07:15pm: Lots more SQL folks are arriving at Tap House.  A game of billiards has erupted.  There’s talk of SQL Karaoke later.

09:15pm: And SQL Karaoke has begun.  It’s a crowded house here at Bush Garden, with a big birthday party, a smaller but louder bachelorette party, and various Saturday night people.

10:30pm: Fatigue sets in all of a sudden, and I’m headed back to the room (and for the first time in #sqlkaraoke history, I’m the first person to leave).  This must be the earliest I’ve retired to my room at a summit week since the infamous PASS Summit of 2005.  I’m looking forward to a decent night of sleep and a great day tomorrow at the MVP Summit.

Five people you should meet at the PASS Summit

imageAs I write this, I’m airborne and on my way to Seattle for the summit week (the Microsoft MVP Summit, followed by the PASS Summit).  I was struck with the notion – and not for the first time – that I’m not really looking forward to these events for the technical content as much as I’m looking forward to networking and reconnecting with my fellow SQLFamily members.  If you are planning to be at either or both of these, I strongly encourage you to make it a priority to meet people and get to know them.  This should be at least as important, if not moreso, than attending sessions.

If all goes well, I’m going to meet up with dozens of people – some of whom I’ll be meeting for the first time.  If you’re new to the SQL community, there may be lots of new names and faces to meet.  If you’re in that group, I want to share with you five folks whom I know that you should make an effort to meet while at the PASS Summit:

Argenis Fernandez: He’s one of my favorite people in the SQL Server community.  He’s an MCM, MVP, and a former Microsoftie, so his depth and breadth of knowledge is clear.  However, he’s also one of the nicest, most interesting folks you’ll meet there.  When you meet him for the first time, don’t be surprised if he wraps you up in a big ol’ bear hug.

Tom LaRock: Tom is the president of the PASS organization, and someone I’m glad to call my friend.  He’s an incredibly smart guy with a talent for getting things done.  But above that, he’s a very approachable, personable guy who really listens when you’re talking.  Tom is a good guy to know for a lot of reasons, and if you introduce yourself to him you’ll be glad you did.

Allen White: Allen is one of the friendliest folks you’ll meet in the SQL community.  He’s also one of the most versatile people in the industry, with a great deal of knowledge in database engine, business intelligence, Biml, and many other diverse topics.  If you want an honest opinion on something, ask Allen – he’ll give you a polite but fair and accurate assessment.  Allen is also a runner, but you’d better be in shape if you intend to keep up with him.

Stacia Misner: Of the various business intelligence practitioners you should know, Stacia is near the top.  I’ve known her for several years and always enjoy chatting with her.  She’s wicked smart, but goes out of her way to share what she knows.  Meeting Stacia often comes with a bonus, as you may also get to meet Dean Varga, her fiancé and also a new member of the SQL community.

Scott Currie: Scott is easily one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.  He’s the CEO of Varigence, the company that makes Biml (and my affection for that tool is well known).  But apart from that, he’s a very insightful guy, one whose opinion I would trust on just about any matter, technical or nontechnical.

By no means should this be considered a comprehensive list of people whom you should meet; winnowing this list to just five people was quite difficult.  These are just five of literally scores of outstanding people in the SQL community who would be happy to say hello to you at the Summit.

It’s That Time Again

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”

No, not the end-of-year festival of repetitive music, overeating, and trampling on other people to find that perfect gift.  No, it’s time again for the PASS Summit, the annual gathering of SQL Server and data professionals from around the world.  The event, which is run by the organization formerly known as the Professional Association for SQL Server, will be held at it usual home base of Seattle this year.  For a lot of reasons I like the concept of moving the Summit every few years, but my favorite location is still Seattle.  It feels like a second home.

There are a lot of things happening this year that I’m excited about.  First of all, the MVP Summit is being held the same week.  Although this makes for a tight schedule, I like doing both summits in rapid succession so I can have just one full week of downtime rather than two partial weeks (which usually become a week each, after travel and such).  I suspect that this even more convenient for my overseas friends, for whom the travel time for a single trip can easily exceed the time spent at a summit.  Making one trip instead of two is far easier.

I’m also excited to be presenting a session on one of my favorite topics: building robust SSIS packages. On Thursday afternoon, I’ll deliver a talk entitled Building Bullet-Resistant SSIS Packages.  If you’re working with SSIS (or working in data integration using any tool), I hope you’ll stop by this session.

In addition, my Linchpin People cohorts and I will again be hosting a booth in the vendor area.  Please do stop by and see us and let’s chat about data integration, data quality, or the complexities of the infield fly rule.  We’re also hosting a party at the Rein Haus on Wednesday night (want to come to the party? Ping me via my contact page).  Linchpin has a strong presence at the summit this year, and I’m excited about meeting many of you that I’ve chatted with this year.

Personally, I’m simply excited about getting together with my SQL Family.  We’ve got a great thing going here, and it truly is the highlight of my year to get together with you all, many of whom are as treasured as my biological family.  Truthfully, I could just skip the sessions and visit with you all, and I would consider my week complete.

One last word: If you’re attending the summit for the first time, or if you’ve attended before but still consider yourself an outsider, please learn from my experience and don’t do what I did during the Summit of 2005.  Go up and introduce yourself to people.  If you recognize someone from their Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn photo, by all means go up and say hello.  The SQL community is very welcoming, and most everyone will be glad to say hello and chat with you.  It’s a great opportunity to build your network and make new friends.

Resolving SSDT-BI Installation with IsVisualStudio2012ProInstalled() error

Recently I was building a new virtual machine for presentations, and loaded up my usual battery – Windows 7, SQL Server 2012, and SSDT-BI.  The installation of these pieces went as expected, and everything appeared to work well – until I attempted to execute an SSIS package on this new setup.  When I did so, I received the following cryptic error message:


Thinking that perhaps I had gotten a bad download for SSDT-BI, I started fresh again, downloading another copy of the bits and working through the machine build process, only to encounter the same error message again.

Fortunately, after just a bit of digging, I found that this is an issue that others have found when going through the same installation process.  I found this thread that points out that the issue occurs because one of the assemblies used by the SSIS designer has failed to properly register.  The solution is to re-register the assembly in question.  The exact steps to do so may vary depending on your OS version, the version of SQL Server, etc.  For my setup (Win7 x64, SQL Server 2012 Developer Edition w/ SP2, and SSDT-BI for Visual Studio 2012), the steps I used to correct the issue are below:

  • Open a command prompt window as administrator (right click the shortcut, and click Run As Administrator)
  • Change directories to C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft SDKs\Windows\v8.0a\bin\NETFX 4.0 Tools\
  • Execute the following command: gacutil.exe /if “C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio 11.0\Common7\IDE\PrivateAssemblies\Microsoft.SqlServer.Dts.Design.dll”

If the registration was successful, you’ll receive a confirmation message similar to below.


Thanks to TechNet user hazel_m_stu_o for the response on the thread mentioned above.

Four things I wish I’d known back then

In the blogging meme of the day, I was tagged by my friend Tim Costello to share four things I wish I’d known back when.  The only hard part was paring the list down to four items.

I think back to 15 years ago, when I was working retail and desperately seeking something else.  Something I could really get into.  Some kind of work I was passionate about.  On a dare, I took the A+ computer certification exam and passed it, and embarked on a career that has led me to where I am today.  Although I miss some of the aspects of that guy I was 15 years ago – bold, fearless, with boundless dreams and ambition – I also wish I could go back and teach my younger self a few things I’ve learned since then.

Failure is a part of growth.

I used to worry a lot more about failure.  I feared that a big failure would end my career, but also worried about day-to-day failures – small mistakes that everyone makes.  I worried that I’d say or do something stupid out of ignorance, and that would be the thing I would forever be remembered for.  It rarely works that way.  In most cases, a person’s career is not measured by their biggest misstep; rather, it is an aggregate of every success and failure – and the attitude they have about those successes and failures.  Failing on the job is a part of the growth process.  As Thomas Edison famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  A misstep is only a failure if you don’t learn from it.

jackYou can’t be an expert in everything.

During my first year in IT, I was convinced that I was going to be some kind of technical demigod, and I set out to learn everything about everything – programming, databases, network administration, routing and switching, even Microsoft Access.  You name the technology from the late 1990s, and I probably had a book on it – and intended to master it.  There’s nothing wrong with learning, and to this day I still work regularly to learn about areas outside of my own specialization.  But I wish I’d known back then that maintaining deep expertise in so many different technical topics is exceedingly difficult if not impossible.  I wish I had realized that there’s far more demand for someone who does just a few things, but does them better than 98% of other practitioners of the same craft.

Don’t just have goals. Have a next set of goals.

There was a time fairly recently where I was stuck in the mud.  I was still doing the work I enjoyed, but for a time I was doing it without a real purpose.  Why?  I had met all of the career goals I had set years ago, and I was working largely without a personal charter.  While that’s a great problem to have, I really hadn’t planned for the contingency of completing those objectives.  I wish I could go back and tell myself to be a bit more optimistic about my goals, and to list out another set to be met later, and another after that, and so forth.  Like anything else, goals should be flexible enough to allow you to adapt to changes in the marketplace and your own desires and place in life.  Those goals will be different for everyone, but whatever they are for you, those milestones are critical for measuring progress and challenging yourself to press onward.

Your technical skills don’t matter as much as you think they do.

miltonIn the late 1990s and early 2000s, there was still a great deal of truth behind the antisocial geek stereotype.  One could be a reasonably successful technologist and stay hidden away from the front lines of end user interaction.  And I fell into that trap for a while, spending virtually no time honing my interpersonal or speaking skills and just working to refine my technical abilities.  While the ability to deliver technical solutions is important, being able to talk to people (both one on one as well as in a presentation setting) and understand their business and its pain points is critical for the success of the modern technologist.  I’d love to go back and tell my younger self: Continue to work on your technical skills, but get out of the server room occasionally and talk to people.  Learn about their jobs, and what causes them grief.  Understand how to not just build technical components, but how to solve real business problems.

And to keep things going, I’m going to tag a few people to get their input on this.  I’d like to hear what Marc Beacom, Reeves Smith, and John Sterrett have to say on this topic.