Posted by: sqlswimmer | August 30, 2017

Speaking at SQL Saturday Spartanburg (#681)

I am so happy to announce (and honored to be selected) that I will be speaking at SQL Saturday Spartanburg (#681) on September 23, 2017.  I will be presenting my What is Power BI? session at 8:30am.  I know it’s early, but I’d love to see you if you are in the area.

I’ve only been to Spartanburg once and that was a few years ago.  I attended the US Masters South Carolina LCM State Championships, where I walked away with a second place medal in my age group for overall meet performance.  It was an exhausting two days, but so worth it.  I’m hoping my SQL Saturday trip will be just as successful.

Hope to see you there!

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Posted by: sqlswimmer | August 22, 2017

SQL Saturday Charlotte (#683)

I am so excited to be helping out with SQL Saturday Charlotte again this year.  This is the 6th year that Charlotte BI Group (CBIG) has put this event on and the 3rd year that I’ve been asked to be part of the organizing team. 

We have a great lineup of speakers and sessions, including two great pre-cons from Leila Etaati and our very own Melissa Coates.

We have worked really hard to put together this event together and hope that you will take the time to come out and get your SQL learnin’ on!

I hope to see you Saturday, October 14, 2017.

Posted by: sqlswimmer | July 28, 2017

Speaking at SQL Saturday Denver (#673)

Wow, I can hardly contain my excitement.  I was selected to speak at SQL Saturday Denver on September 16, 2017.  I’ll be presenting my Intro to Integration Services session.  I’m excited for so many reasons, but firstly, this will be my first trip back “home” in seven years.  We planned this trip back in February so that we could see Muse at Red Rocks.  I lived in Denver for 15 years and never once saw a show at Red Rocks, so I was super excited when I found out they were playing there.  Secondly, I get to talk about Integration Services, which is my favorite piece of SQL Server.  It’s an introductory session aimed at folks who want to learn more about that it is and how it can be used.

So, if you’re in the Denver area on Saturday, September 16, 2017, stop by and say “Hi”, I’d love to see you and chat for a little while.

#SQLSatDenver here we come!

denver-colorado-downtown

Posted by: sqlswimmer | June 30, 2017

Don’t Forget the Keys

I was recently given the nod to upgrade my monitoring server from SQL Server 2012 (SP 3) to SQL Server 2016.  This came none too soon as SQL Server 2012 (SP3) goes out of mainstream support on July 11, 2017.

We decided to go with a brand new box since the existing one was on Windows Server 2012 (not R2) and had been having issues lately.  So my SysAdmin guy stood up a brand new shiny Windows 2016 Server box for me.  This will be the first in our domain.  I get to be the guinea pig – WooHoo!

I got SQL Server 2016 installed on the new box without issue.  This box is used as my monitoring server and my personal sandbox, so it has Reporting Services (SSRS) installed on it as well as the database engine.  Since we are using a brand new box, there is no need to shut the old one off before we turned this one on, which is nice.  I can migrate things when I have time.

My first order of business was to migrate my SSRS databases to the new box and get it configured.  Now, it’s been a while since I’ve migrated an instance of SSRS, so of course I forgot something.  Otherwise you would not be reading this post.

I remembered to backup BOTH databases and the encryption key.  Once I had the databases restored on the new server I started the Reporting Services Configuration Manager so I could restore the encryption key so I wouldn’t lose all my credentials and other security sensitive information (BTW – Here’s a great reference for migrating SSRS).  After I restored my encryption key, I wanted to generate a new key, but the Backup button was not enabled on the Encryption key tab.  I didn’t think much of it, I just restarted SSRS and figured it would be available after restarting.  Of course it wasn’t.  I tried navigating to the URL for the SSRS Web Portal (replaces Report Manager) and I got an error saying Reporting Services was not configured correctly.  Interesting.  It took me about 15 minutes to realize/remember the last step in restoring the encryption key.  Do you remember what it is?  Without Googling it?

Okay, I’ll tell you since you’ve made it this far in the post.  Now I will tell you that I was not the one that installed/configured SSRS on the old server, so I was not aware that whoever did, configured the database for a scaled out deployment, even though it was not being used in a scaled out deployment <sigh>.  When you have a database that has been configured for scaled out deployment, you have to clean up the entries in the Keys table in the ReportServer database (the link above has a note about this very thing about three quarters of the way down).

Lesson learned:  Always look at the existing configuration very closely.  I totally didn’t notice (and hadn’t noticed for 3+ years) that the database had been configured for scaled out deployment, shame on me!

My shiny new SSRS 2016 instance is up and running now.

Microsoft announced a new program last year to help you understand the skills that a Data Scientist needs in their daily life.  It consists of nine courses and a final project, you can get all the details about it on the Microsoft Academy site.  I started working on this at the end of 2016 when things were slow at work and at home.  I completed seven of the courses before things started to pick up at work and home.  I’ve been mid-way through the eighth course for almost four months now, having to go back to the beginning of the course a few times due to being pulled away. 

The program has been very informative so far, providing courses on statistics and probability, Machine Learning, Power BI, R (and Python) and general data science concepts.  I’m hoping things will slow down a bit so I can complete the program by the end of Summer.

If you are at all curious about what a Data Scientist does, I highly recommend this program.  The great thing about this program is that you can take all the courses for free, that’s right, I said free, gratis, no dough required, etc.  However, if you do opt for the free route, you don’t earn that beautiful certificate that you can share with others, you just get the satisfaction of completing the course and broadening your horizons.  Either way, it’s a good way to get started in the field of Data Science.

Posted by: sqlswimmer | June 7, 2017

Import Export Wizard Mapping Files

Recently I had to copy data from our AS400 to a SQL Server database.  Normally I would whip up my fancy SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) project and get it hammered out pretty quickly.  Unfortunately there were over 4,000 tables that I needed to pull data from, no way in HELL was I going to manually create 4,000+ packages.  Now most of my BIML friends would say, I could BIML that for you in 2 hours and if my BIML weren’t so rusty, I probably could have too.  I didn’t have to do any fancy transformations on the data, I just had to copy it.  So I decided to take the “easy way out” and use the Import Export Wizard in SQL Server Management Studio.  Shoot, all I would have to do is a few clicks and be done with it, right?  Boy was I wrong.

This post talks about the issue I ran into with SSIS Mapping Files.

We currently run DB2 on an IBM iSeries AS400 for our ERP system.  I was tasked with copying data from the AS400 to a SQL Server database for some consultants to use.  The C-Suite didn’t want to give the consultants access to our AS400, so this was the work around that was put forth and accepted (and no, no one asked me before I was “voluntold” for the task).  Since this would essentially be a “one-time” thing, I chose to use the Import Export Wizard, but I would save the package just in case they wanted this process repeated.

I fired up the Import Export Wizard and selected my source, IBM DB2 for i IBMDA400 OLE DB Provider.  Now before you can select this data source you must install the IBM DB2 drivers.  You can find out more about them here, unfortunately you have to have a maintenance contract and an account with IBM before you can download them <sigh>.  It’s a straight forward install once you have the installation package.

EZ peazy, lemon squeezy.

I selected my destination, SQL Server Native Client 11.0, of course!

 

On a roll now, should only be another 30 seconds and I can put this project to bed.  Well, we all know that’s not what happened, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this.

When I clicked on the Edit mappings button in the wizard to make sure all the datatypes had been mapped successfully, I got “<unknown type>” for every single column.  WTH?!  This doesn’t happen when I’m working in Visual Studio with my SSIS projects.  After some frantic googling, I found a couple of very good articles on the Mapping Files for the Import Export Wizard.

Data Type Mapping

Import Export Wizard can show numbers..

I took the advice of the articles and made copies of my Mapping Files before I modified them.  I made my modifications to include the column types and their respective mappings courtesy of the Data Type Mapping article and saved my changes.  I made sure the Import Export Wizard was closed then started it again.  This isn’t so hard, no big deal, they’ll all populate correctly now..WHAT?!  Still <unknown type> for all columns!  Now this has become a matter of solving it using this method, I will NOT resort to brushing up on my BIML.

After many attempts I finally figured out what the issue was.  There were two.  First, the order in which the Import Export Wizard searches through the Mapping Files.  Second, the Source Type within the Mapping File.

According to the Import Export Wizard, my source provider is IBMDA400 and it can’t find any mapping file.  But if you notice the Mapping file for my destination…

For the first issue, a little background on how the Import Export Wizard works.  When you select a source and destination the wizard has to know how to map the data types from source to destination so you don’t end up with gobbledygook in your destination.  So it searches through all the files in the following directories, depending on your architecture (I’m using SQL Server 2016 hence the 130 in the path):

C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\130\DTS\MappingFiles

C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft SQL Server\130\DTS\MappingFiles

The key word there is ALL the files in the directory, so if you just copy your original files to the same folder (with the famous “ – copy” so courteously appended by Windows Explorer), it will search through both your original AND the modified copy of the respective Mapping File.  In my case it was finding the source/destination Mapping File in the original Mapping File and completely ignoring my modified copy <sigh>.  Easy enough to fix, I moved my original “copies” to a completely different folder.

For the second issue, the source type within the Mapping File.  Now I will admit that I had been working on this for about 5 hours straight and had become so obsessed with making this work with the Import Export Wizard, I started to not pay attention to detail.  I want to see how long it takes you to find the issue, this is my file that I think should work.

 

This is the file that actually works

 

Did you find it?  How long did it take you?  Took me about an hour to figure this out

In case you still haven’t found the issue, the answer is:  The SourceType in the first file is using IBMDADB2* and the second file is using IBMDA*.  Since our source provider is IBMDA400 and we are using the first file (IBMDADB2*), there is will be no match on the source.  As soon as we change the SourceType (IBMDA*) we get a match (* is used as a wild card) it works.  Three little letters, that’s all it took for me to waste half a day.

Now what I ended up doing instead of modifying the original mapping file is creating a copy of it, renaming it to something meaningful to me, but still following the naming convention of the Mapping Files, changing the SourceType value to IBMDA* and adding all the data types that were missing.  This way there will be no conflict if I ever need to use the mapping file with the IBMDADB2 SourceType.

I hope this helps someone else.  There’re tons of posts out there about data mapping, but none of them tell you to pay special attention to the issues I had.  Granted my issues were self created, but they were issues nonetheless.

Posted by: sqlswimmer | May 25, 2017

Speaking at SQL Saturday Atlanta (#652)

I am so excited and honored to have been selected to speak at SQL Saturday Atlanta (#652) this year.  This is huge event where I’ve been a volunteer and attendee in the past, but this will be my first time as a speaker.

I will be presenting my session What is Power BI?  I’ve presented this session a couple of times in the past but will be updating it to contain information regarding the changes that go into effect June 1, 2017.

If you are close to Atlanta on July 15, 2017, please stop by and say “Hello”, I’d love to see you.

#SQLSatATL

Posted by: sqlswimmer | March 22, 2017

SQL Saturday Richmond (#610)

On Saturday, March 18, 2017, I spoke at my very first SQL Saturday.  I have been an attendee, involved in organizing and volunteered at many over the years, but this was the very first time I was a speaker.  My session, What is Power BI?

I have presented this session twice before, once to my local user group and once at the Triad Developers Conference, so I was fairly comfortable with my content.  Richmond had 245 attendees registered with 5 different session tracks.  I had about 25 people in my session.  Of those 25, I only saw one nod off, but it was the first session of the day (8:30am), so I’m going to chalk that one up to not enough caffeine prior to the session.  There were some great questions and I had several people approach after the session with more detailed questions and to tell me how much they enjoyed my session.  Some were so excited they would be able to take action when they got back to work on Monday based on my session.  It really doesn’t get any better than that.

With my session in the rear view, I was excited to attend other sessions.  I was able to make it into two other sessions, both of which were fabulous.  The organizing team for SQL Saturday Richmond did a fabulous job.  The event appeared to run like clockwork, I think maybe they’ve done this before Winking smile

One thing I really liked about this event is that they did not have a typical speaker dinner and gift, they did a speaker event.  It was at G-Force Karts which was so exciting for me because I’d never driven a go kart before.  I’ve always fancied myself a race car driver in another life (much to Martin’s dismay) so this was my opportunity to see if it was true.  All I can say is, “Yes, it’s true.”  I had so much fun.  I wish more SQL Saturday organizers would consider doing something like this.  A nice dinner is always appreciated and a gift is a thoughtful gesture, but the memories I made with my #SQLFamily at G-Force Karts are something I will NEVER forget.

I just want to thank the organizers of SQL Saturday Richmond, all the volunteers, sponsors and spouses who made this event happen.  It was truly amazing and something I will remember my entire life.  Well done.

SQLSatRichmondGoKart

Photo courtesy of Doug Purnell (Blog |Twitter)

Posted by: sqlswimmer | March 16, 2017

Check Those Settings

Recently, I was tasked with “enhancing” a third party application.  This third party application (TPA) outputs a bunch of files to a file share in a way that makes sense to the application, but makes no sense to a human. 

The Task

Make a copy of these files in a new location that makes sense to humans.

The Rules of Engagement

  • Do not modify any of the existing files or file structures created by the TPA.
  • Do not modify any of the TPA database objects.
  • Do not add any objects to the TPA database.

First thing that popped into my head was, “I can do that in PowerShell in less than 5 minutes.”  Kind of like the old game show Name That Tune, my confidence level was high.  Little did I know what was in store for me.  Less than 5 minutes turned into more than 5 hours.

In order to make the files and file structure make sense to a human, I had to use a stored procedure from the TPA to decode some bits.  Easy enough in PowerShell, just use my favorite command-let from dbatools.io, invoke-sqlcmd2.  But wait, one minor detail, I am not allowed to install any snap-ins or any other tools on the server where this would run.  In fact, I can’t even use the latest version of PowerShell, I am stuck with using PowerShell 2.0 <sigh>.

After I dusted off my PowerShell 2.0 documentation, I got my script written and started testing.  I processed several folders and their files before I received the following error while running my PowerShell script:

Invoke-Sqlcmd : String or binary data would be truncated.
The statement has been terminated.
At line:127 char:36
+ … MyResults = Invoke-Sqlcmd -ServerInstance $ServerName `
+                 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    + CategoryInfo          : InvalidOperation: (:) [Invoke-Sqlcmd], SqlPowerShellSqlExecutionException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : SqlError,Microsoft.SqlServer.Management.PowerShell.GetScriptCommand

Interesting.  I added some Write-Host statements for troubleshooting and found the offending entry.  Like any good programmer, I tested my stored procedure call in SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) to make sure it really was a SQL Server error and guess what?  It worked just fine!  No errors what so ever.  WTH?!  This is where my tunnel vision sets in.  If it works in SSMS but not in PowerShell, then PowerShell must be the problem, right?  Well, sort of.

After repeatedly running the same piece of code and expecting different results (yes, like I said, tunnel vision), I threw my hands up and quit for the day.  I had restless dreams that night.  I was being chased by a giant SQLString Truncator (a very rare dinosaur from esoteric era).  I woke with a start at 4:30am, I had to be missing something.  All I can say is, thank goodness for Twitter and #SQLHelp.  I tweeted my issue and got immediate responses from some very smart folks, but nothing that resolved my issue, until I read between the lines of a tweet from Robert Davis:

SQLSolderTweet

That’s when the light bulb went on and Robert sent his follow up tweet:

SQLSolderTweet2

I copied all my settings from SSMS and added them to my PowerShell script.  One by one I commented them out until I was left with just one.  Low and behold that SQLString Truncator was really one of those pesky ARITHABORT Biters.

Lessons Learned

  • As soon as that tunnel vision kicks in, you need to stop what you are doing and take a break.
  • Ask for help, don’t keep beating your head against the wall.
  • Most importantly, don’t forget about your settings.  They can make all the difference in the world.
  • ARITHABORT Biters are much harder to catch in the wild than SQLString Truncators.
Posted by: sqlswimmer | March 11, 2017

Next Stop, SQL Saturday Richmond

I can’t believe it’s almost time for SQL Saturday #610.  I’ll be there presenting What is Power BI?  If you are in the Richmond area Saturday, March 18, 2017, please stop by and say “Hello”, I’d love to see you.  There are tons of other sessions as well, so sit a spell and get your SQL Learnin’ On!

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