Ajarn Mark Caldwell Blog

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PASS 2009 Wednesday

The Summit on Wednesday kicked off with Rushabh Mehta, new PASS President, making some opening remarks and then handing-off to Ted Casey from Microsoft for the keynote.  The things that stuck in my mind from Tom’s talk were some whiz-bang demos of PowerPivot with Excel 2010 and SharePoint 2010.  There was a demo where they were manipulating 100 million rows in Excel and made an off-hand remark about Excel 2010 including a mini OLAP engine in it to handle this.  And there was something about Reporting Services Data Sources can be exported as a Data Feed which can be consumed by Excel.  Didn’t quite get all the details of those, but that’s enough to spark your research if you’re interested.  One other thing that really caught people’s attention was use of a moving bubble chart.  I had seen this type of thing before from some posts that Garr Reynolds has on his Presentation Zen blog; specifically, check out the videos by Hans Rosling.  (I’ve soap-boxed on this before, but presentation does matter.  If you were in that room and heard the gasps and sounds of approval and being impressed, you would have no doubt on this.)

The first breakout session I went to on Wednesday was Brian Larson’s presentation on Creating Dashboards.  This is something that we will be focusing on over the next couple of years in my company.  We definitely need better visibility into (and presentation of) key business information throughout the company.  I liked a definition that Brian gave…Business Intelligence is getting accurate and useful information to the appropriate people at the appropriate time.  Simple, but powerful.  Another good point that Brian made was that financials are usually a lagging indicator of organizational health, and so he advocated use of a Balanced Scorecard that includes measures from many different areas.  A couple of cool tricks he shared were to build a nice calendar display built as a nested tablix on a Reporting Services report; and to insert a rectangle in a Reporting Services cell and then insert your image inside the rectangle in order to preserver a little white space around the image.  He also mentioned an upcoming book named Reporting Services Recipes which sounds like it will contain several more tips and tricks.  I’ll have to add that to my wish list.

Next I went to the Women in Technology luncheon which was great again this year.  I blogged on the luncheon last year, and there are several bloggers continuing the conversation this year.  I don’t know what more to say on this other than I again applaud all those involved in the goal of getting more women involved in technology and seeing it as the great and rewarding career path it can be; and tearing down barriers that interfere.  As a father of a little girl, I know this will become even more important and meaningful for me over time.

After lunch I went to a panel discussion on SQL Injection.  It turned out to be more simplistic than I expected.  Perhaps I need to review the Level it was assigned, but it turned out to be much repeating of the mantra, “parameters, parameters, parameters”.  This is good and important advice, and maybe I just was not the right target market for this breakout session since I have been using stored procedures with strongly typed parameters extensively for about a decade now and I put up quite a fight against use of dynamic SQL in our systems.  I did make note of a few good references for testing tools that I’ll look into to see what vulnerabilities may have slipped in despite my best efforts.

I wrapped up the training day in a session on using Sparse Columns and Filtered Indexes, two new features in SQL 2008 that we will likely be implementing in the next couple of months, although I still need to do a little research.  Dan Kiely did a good job explaining these topics and demonstrating them, along with some of the pitfalls to watch out for; especially the fact that if you issue an update against the Columnset column, it will cause any sparse column that is not included in your update statement to be set to null.  That would be quite a shock if you accidentally triggered that feature.  I like that he started off with a trivia question that will catch you if you’re not paying close attention.  Here it is…”How much room does a NULL integer take?”  Take a moment and think about it…  WAITING… WAITING…  OK, here’s the answer, “The same amount as a non-null Integer, 4 bytes”.  If you said it takes up no space because it is NULL, you better go back and read it again.

The final event of the evening, was of course, the party at Gameworks.  What can I say?  Free food and drink…free games…good conversations…it was great!  Thanks Microsoft for picking up the tab on that!

Another very valuable day at the PASS Community Summit!

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re: PASS 2009 Wednesday
A good beginning