Book Review–Windows Powershell Scripting Guide

July 9th, 2009

 It’s not often I give a book rave reviews, but I only have one small nitpicky complaint about the Windows Powershell Scripting Guide.  That is that the title doesn’t truely convey the usefulness of this book for Windows administrators.

A better title, in my humble opinion, would be:  Powershell Scripts That Do Everything In Windows.

 The first two chapters give a nice basic overview of the Powershell environment, its configuration, and basic language elements (flow control, conditionals, etc.).

 After that, all the rest of the book is about scripts to accomplish many of the day to day Windows administration tasks in Powershell.  Need to read event logs, manage your failover cluster, or configure Server Core?  Scripts to accomplish those tasks and many more are in this book.

 If you want or need to script in Windows, you should have this book for the amazing number of scripts the author includes, if nothing else.

 Thanks;

James

Book Review–Deploying Messaging Solutions with Microsoft Exchange Server 2007

July 3rd, 2009

Well, this book is designed to prepare you for Microsoft Exam 70-238.  In that regard, I give the book a 50% success rate at best.

 While the fundamentals of the book are good, there are a number of content areas on the exam that the book either gives no information about or very limited information.  If you are new to Exchange Server 2007 and want to use this book, it provides a good starting point, but DO NOT RELY ON IT FOR YOUR ENTIRE PREPARATION FOR THE EXAM!!!!

If you do, well, e-mail me and we’ll place a side wager on whether or not you pass your exam.

I could not review the included practice tests on the CD because my CD was defective and would not play on either of my computers.  I also found the Case Scenarios wordy and lacking truly technical questions like those on the exam.  Some of the Suggested Practices for hands-on work were very weak as well.

In summary, if you are new to Exchange Server 2007, this book has some good background information, but it is not a comprehensive review or learning resource for passing your exam.

James

Windows 7 Launch Date

June 2nd, 2009

We now have a release date for Windows 7, it looks like we’ll see the new product on October 22nd, 2009.

Woo hoo…..

http://blogs.zdnet.com/Bott/?p=1021

SQL Server Integration Packages–The Pain of Storage

June 1st, 2009

One of the largest pain points for me when Microsoft moved their ETL (Extract, Transform, and Load) technologies for SQL Server from DTS (Data Transformation Services) to SSIS (SQL Server Integration Services) has been their reduced editing functionality for packages saved in the MSDB database.

 As a DBA and not a developer, I have always been a fan of taking advantage of SQL Server’s built-in functionality to protect packages and their “secrets” (passwords for connecting to other systems, etc.) and to ensure that they get backed up along with the SQL Server system databases.  With the advent of SSIS, Microsoft has made this much more difficult to work with since there is no direct editing of packages stored in MSDB.  You end up having to export the package, edit it, and then re-import it into MSDB.  That is a pain in sensitive body parts for more than a couple of packages.

Developers advise us to use the file system to store our SSIS packages like they would store their VB or C# program code, projects, and solutions to work around these issues.  In my opinion, this has some significant disadvantages:

1.  To save secrets in the packages, you have to either encrypt the package with a password or with a user’s key.  If you use a password, that is one more thing to lose or forget, meaning no one has access to the secrets in the package or package source, or everyone does.  If you use a user’s key, then access to the secrets or package source is only available to that particular user.

2.  You cannot take advantage of SQL Server’s built-in roles in the MSDB database like db_ssisadmin to secure who has access to SSIS.  You are forced to rely on a combination of the security listed in Step 1 (user keys and package passwords) and NTFS file system security.  The introduction of having to worry about NTFS-level security adds yet another variable (and in large organizations, another team of administrators) to worry about.

Thankfully, someone has finally taken the time to write and make available an automated way to import packages to and export packages from MSDB.  The June 2009 issue of SQL Server Magazine has a reader solution that allows us to easily import and export SSIS packages from MSDB.  You can find the online version and code here:  http://www.sqlmag.com/Articles/ArticleID/101918/101918.html

Thank you Shaunt Khaldtiance and thank you SQL Server Magazine. 

Hope this helps someone else;

 James

Death to Project Management!!! Long Live Project Management!!!

May 19th, 2009

Having had a role in all parts of an IT Project Management (PM) plan – from manager to peon – I feel safe in saying that most company’s PM plans are like how most people play poker:  you know the rules enough to sit at the table but at the end you sit in stunned disbelief having wasted a lot of time, wondering how you lost that much money, having no idea what you should have learned from the experience or how to prevent it from happening again in the future (other than not playing.)

There are lots of ways to think about PM and its application:

Some think it’s an art while others think it’s a science.  Some think it’s a hybrid of the two while others believe that the mixed approach is what causes all the problems to begin with…

Some project managers think everything can be cured with another paper form and another spreadsheet while others know the solution is only one more impromptu meeting away.

It’s not unusual for a company to start off with lofty goals only to have a wish list so grandiose that it collapses under its own weight while others have plans no more challenging than a grocery shopping list.

Of course, there is the team perception of the PM plan as a whole.  A few see it as an obstacle that gets in the way of getting “real work” done while some tolerate it as an annoyance that must be endured like a Human Resources “Just Say No to Harassment” video so somebody somewhere can check it off a requirements list.  Others stick to the plan with such fervor that any deviation results in open calls for a public stoning (assuming it’s been added to the plan previously, of course…)

I wish I could say that there are two extremes when it comes to participation but sadly not so – it’s usually a handful of people constantly fighting to get things done – as some co-workers don’t have the interest in success as the people tasked with making it work do (not enough time to make the project a priority, no real stake in the outcome, or just plain contrarian attitudes for opposition’s sake.)

If you have read this far, you might be one of those people who have been blessed/burdened with the job of Project Manager for an IT project.  Periodically, I will be posting “war stories” of real projects along with alternative perspectives on common thinking in the project world.  Hopefully, they will help you succeed in your role wherever you are.

Windows 7 First Look Classes Coming

May 18th, 2009

Acknowledge IT is proud to bring your First Look at Windows 7 to Southwestern Virginia.  We are offering two one-day sessions on Windows 7 and its new features on June 9th and June 10th, 2009.  Topics to be covered include DirectAccess, Bitlocker to Go, BranchCache, Libraries, AppLocker, and many others.  The morning session (Microsoft Course 6289) will include discussion and demonstration of the features, and the afternoon session (Microsoft Course 6290) will have hands-on labs to reinforce your knowledge.

If you sign up for one of these two sessions, we will cut the price to $199 dollars per student.  That’s a 60% discount over our normally daily rates.  Call or e-mail us today for more information, but space is limited and the classes are filling up quickly.

We hope to see you there;

James

Book Review–Delivering Business Intelligence with Microsoft SQL Server 2005

May 18th, 2009

 The first technical book review I’d like to post is for Delivering Business Intelligence with Microsoft SQL Server 2005.

If you are new to Business Intelligence (hereafter referred to as BI) theory, this is not the book for you.  The first chapters do a cursory review of the BI process and theory, but it is no where in depth enough for newcomers to the topic.

However, if you already have a grounding in basic BI concepts like OLAP, Data Marts, Measures, Dimensions, Facts, Star Schemas, Snowflake Schemas, etc. this book shines in walking you step by step in the setup, configuration, and management of basic pieces of Analysis Services, Integration Services, and Reporting Services. 

The strength of this book for me was the step-by-step Learn by Doing exercises.  These allowed me to get comfortable with the Business Intelligence Design Studio (BIDS) and its complex user interface.

If you are looking for a hands-on walkthrough of the BI components of SQL Server 2005, this is an excellent book to use.

 Hope this helps someone;

James

Office 2007 Updates Refuse to Install

May 18th, 2009

Of course, I can’t go through the week without breaking my own computer.  (Keeping in mind I don’t get paid to fix my own stuff…..)

 My Office 2007 installation has refused updates for a while, each one that attempted to install returned an error stating that I had a corrupted installation database.  I couldn’t repair or uninstall the Office 2007 suite as well.

 Thankfully, my Google searching skills were strong, so I was able to was able to find some success by following the instructions by dlauber in this thread:  http://forums.techarena.in/ms-office-support/729760.htm

 The gist is that you have to go into the registry, open HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Installer\Products and find the GUIDs corresponding to each MS Office product and component.  Once there, rename or delete the Patches key for each one.  (Yes, I know there’s a large number of them, and yes, I know that I could probably write a script to do it, but I’m not a good enough scripter that I could write the script quicker than doing the manual edits on this one PC.)

To help you find the appropriate GUIDs, on my machine, all of the Office-related GUIDs started with 000021.  (There were a couple of other programs from MS that had GUIDs that started with 000021 as well, but hopefully this will help you narrow the search.)

Now if I just knew what caused this to happen, I’d be in business.  Hopefully this will help someone else out there recover from this error.

 James

Book Review–Oh the Places You’ll Go!

May 15th, 2009

 As the proud father of a little girl, I’ve had a chance to reconnect somewhat with my own childhood and the great authors and books I remember loving as a kid.  And I didn’t want to start off with too serious a book review for our first one, so I thought I’d pick an all-time classic with an underlying message.

 One of those timeless authors is Theodor Geisel, known and loved by millions as Dr. Seuss.  I remember reading classics like The Cat in the Hat all the time as a small child.  Now that I’m reading the books to my daughter, I’m reminded that a lot of the great children’s books have messages that transcend just telling a good story.

Oh the Places You’ll Go! is one of those books.  If you read the book and think about the message, it applies to anyone starting out on a new path in life.  With recent economic woes affecting many of our co-workers in technology and other fields, that could be any of us.

 Take a few minutes and reconnect with your inner child with this book.  You’ll be glad you did.

Book Reviews

May 14th, 2009

One of the things I get to do as a trainer and consultant in various areas of technology is to constantly spend time reading about and experimenting with new technologies.

The hardest thing about this for me is that there is so much information available for consumption between the web, blogs, documentation, industry publications, and books.  When I’m trying to learn a new technology I get overwhelmed. 

I’ve given up a great deal of my learning time this year to spend more time with my new daughter and my wife (even though we’ve been married 11 1/2 years, I can’t say new daughter and old wife without getting slapped).  This has created a new challenge for me to overcome:  How do I decide what books I should pursue given my limited time?

For me, the answer has been using reviews posted by other readers.  This helps me focus on the books that will help me learn the most in the shortest amount of time.  Knowing that everyone has more things to learn than time to learn them, I’d like to help out.

I’ll post a book review here on the blog as I get a chance to finish pursuing technology books.  I’ll also be scattering in reviews of older books whose technologies are still relevant. 

 If you have books think I should be reading given the areas we cover here, please let me know.  I’ll be posting a couple of reviews over the next week to get us started.

James

Disclosure:  If you click on links to the books here in the blog and purchase them from Amazon we receive a small percentage of the sale.