Busting for a Wii at SQL Bits
"I'm busting for a Wii!" was my wife's exclamation in the centre of Warrington. We had been an attempting to avoid traffic on the M6 but got snarled up in even more traffic in central Warrington. I did not understand at first, but then I saw the cheeky kid's grin on the advert on the back of a bus. In good northern dialect, he was not just bursting, but "busting" with excitement about the latest Nintendo games machine. What surprised me more was what followed. My wife gave me a 30 minute rant questioning exactly why I had not yet brought her a games machine. Of course my teenage daughter joined in the fray whilst my teenage son remained quite. Games machines have long been the domain of spotty teenage boys or young men with time on their hands and few friends. They are certainly not the domain of middle age females with a technology adversion! So I was rather taken aback by the whole situation.
However, this weekend the SQL Bits conferance delivered in more ways than I could possibly imagine. The event was well organised and well attended and all the lectures on the "track" I was on were well presented.
Andrew Sadler (formerly of ProClarity and now a consultant with Edenbrook) did a breakneck demonstration of the Microsoft BI stack including PerformancePoint and Excel Services. As I work with this stuff every day, I did not learn anything particularly new; it is just great to see someone else's take of the Microsoft offerings and exactly how they present it all as a 'coherent' strategy. There was clearly pent up frustration in the audience that the ProClarity product had been left on the shelf by Microsoft. A great tool been suffocated by the giant. I just hope that PerformancePoint v2 (whenever it surfaces) actually provides functionality as good, or better, than ProClarity's.
Simon Sabin did a great job of introducing some of the new features in the T-SQL language. To be honest, the audience got most animated when they realised Simon had simply highlighted the name of a table and hit some key and SQL Server Management Studio performed a query that listed not only the table definition but primary keys etc. He then showed us all how to configure keyboard shortcuts in Tools->Options->Environment->Keyboard. It seems that any single parameter stored proc (including your own) can be mapped to a keyboard shortcut and it will be passed the highlighted text when invoked. Simple, effective and one of the best things I learnt out of the session! Not that I am decrying Simon's excellent session, but something simple like a keyboard shortcut can save a lot of time in the long run, and these things are invaluable.
Allan Mitchell performed a great demo of the Data Mining Add-In for Excel. This is a tool that I always keep meaning to use on a project, but somehow never get around to getting it out of the bag and dusting it off. The new version of the DM Add-In for Excel 2007 demos really well. I will have to make a determined effort to do something with this technology soon!
It was great to meet Chris Webb for the first time. Having read the blogs and the book, it was good to get to know the guy in person. I will be using Intelligencia Query for BIDS and Reporting Services in my next project jointly developed by Chris and Andrew Wiles who also presented his 'reusable' approach to BI the day. Colin Hardie of the IMGroup ably demonstrated the new MERGE feature in T-SQL as well as several other approaches to handling Type 2 slowly changing dimensions.
It was great to meet old friends, put faces to people I had only previously met in 'cyberspace' and meet some new contacts. Microsoft provided free drinks after the gig and, even better, I won a Wii in the RedGate prize draw. Even my wife agrees that it was a good conference!