Thursday, December 28, 2006

2006 – A Year of the Damn Data

It’s been almost exactly a year since I started “The Damn Data” (TDD). I have a great memory and love to reminisce about good times in the past so I’ve decided to put a data year-in-review summary below and list my professional resolutions at the end.

January 2006 – Come up with idea for “The Damn Data” website while sitting in a boring meeting at work arguing about data quality, thinking that the problem ‘is just the damn data’. Goal was (is?) to develop a brand about data of all types stored in all types of structures and manipulated by all types of tools.

February 3 – Present first ever session at South Florida Code Camp titled “It’s all about the Data: Building a Data Warehouse using SQL Server 2005”. I’ll never admit it but I was kind of nervous about the appeal of the topic but the 65 people in attendance convinced me that I was onto something. The post party at Tarpon Bend was quite enjoyable, I especially enjoyed talking with the pretty ladies who are also techies, and I think they were from Ft. Lauderdale. Oh well.

March – Much to the angst of Joe Healy, I skipped the Orlando code camp to watch my beloved St. Louis Cardinals play three spring training games in Jupiter, unknowingly watching the precursor to Game 7 of the NLCS (Cardinals @ Mets).

June – Roadtripped in the ‘shaggin’ wagon’ (since sold God bless it) with Healy and Tom Fuller to the Tallahassee Code Camp. Presented “Data Warehousing Essentials with SQL Server 2005” with 14 people in attendance. Slightly disappointed in the post-party at Paradise Bar and Grill due to lack of college students in town during the summer. Strongly suggested to Keith Rowe that TLH Code camp be moved back to September (which I’m told it will be). The best part was seeing city-boy AKA Fuller in his Buffalo Bills visor eating at “Hog Heaven” bbq on the side of U.S. 19, a place where only a redneck would feel at home (like Healy and I are at heart).

July – Wasted a good weekend at the Homewood Suites in Tallahassee working on a contract project and arguing with a batch load guy about the appropriate way to load data into tables. Even worse was the lack of a good bar in close proximity of the hotel. Jumped out of a perfectly good airplane with a fellow techie (Laurie) against my own judgement, but it was well worth it. Attended the Tampa code camp and presented two sessions “Data for Dummies: Parts 1 & 2”. First session went good, about 32 people in the room, some good questions, but a problem with my SSIS demo. DOH!!!!! I must have scared a bunch of people away because only 4 came to the second session. Enjoyed the candid feedback received from the evaluation forms, some of which said “speak more slowly, covered material too fast” and “speak faster, spent too much time on basic material”. MORAL – can’t please ‘em all.

August – Attended the Tampa Bay Technology Forum Summer tech jam (www.tbtf.org) at Channelside. It was a lot of fun and I got a chance to meet up with a lot of recruiters (many of them were very pretty and you know who you are, and I’ll still take you up on that dinner with your friend, Michelle). I also socialized with old coworkers and friends who I hadn’t seen in a long time. At the end of the month, I roadtripped with Healy, Kabza, Fuller, Schultes, and Zimmy to Jacksonville for the code camp (thankfully I did not drive this time). Shared a room with Kabza and Zimmy at the Hyatt on the St. Johns River. JAX is a beautiful town and I highly recommend it. Drank a couple with the guys at the Landing and ended up presenting “Data Warehousing Essentials with SQL Server 2005” as a fill-in in the afternoon with a pretty good hangover. Received an eval comment that said “too relaxed” contrasting with a comment saying “slow down and relax”. Went to the Bucs @ Jags preseason game with Kabza, riding the water taxi to the game; it was fun and worthwhile and one of the highlights of my summer.

September – Presented “Introduction to SQL Server Integration Services” at the Tampa SQL user group meeting with about 16 in attendance. The presentation went well and I enjoyed socializing with the group at Courtside Grille afterwards. Spent too much time chasing women and socializing to think a lot about data…….

October – Didn’t do a damn thing related to data, but I did hop on American Airlines and found myself at Game 5 of the World Series, watching the St. Louis Cardinals decimate the Detriot Tigers for the championship. I thought about data warehousing after noticing that it took 3 days for my AAdvantage miles to post to my account after my trip. In contrast, Delta posts the miles to my account by the time I get home from the airport. Could this be the difference between a batch load and a trickle feed (right time) data warehouse? Interesting…. Oh, and thanks to Kabza and Schultes for joining me at the Green Iguana (after Russ’ MSDN event) and Courtside Grille to watch the NLCS game 7.

November – Courtesy of my employer, attended The Data Warehouse Institute (www.tdwi.org) World Conference at Universal Studios in Orlando. I was able to walk around CityWalk during lunch and found it to be enjoyable. I learned a lot about ETL architecture and data warehouse design considerations. At the end of the month, went out with Tim, Kabza, Vinay, Schultes, and Healy to a good bar (The Independent) and Indian food restaurant in downtown St. Pete. It’s always a treat to socialize with these guys and I value those moments highly.

December – Attended the Visual Studio Team Systems for Database Professionals launch in Tampa at the Grand Hyatt. I unexpectedly was recognized in front of the 120 people there for my tribal knowledge and my wonderful website thanks to the Microsoft guys. Later in the month I attended the Hot Spaces.net Tech Social where my nametag with my name WES @ www.thedamndata.com drew quite a few stares. Met some great people and hopefully a hookup for some Tampa Bay Lightning tickets although she flaked at my first request.

Wow – now that I have written that I feel great and remember what a wonderful year it really has been. The goal now is to make 2007 even better, and tomorrow I will write a post with my thoughts on those goals.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Windows Vista – A New experience

Those who have seen my presentations know that my life is on my laptop. Therefore, it was fitting that I was exceptionally frustrated when a 10-month old Dell Inspiron 9300 laptop began to chug along like a 4-cylinder truck.

I reformatted the laptop and using my MSDN Universal subscription decided to install Windows Vista Ultimate as my operating system of choice. Thanks to my excellent file management practices (nicely complementing my good data design practices), backing up my projects and personal files took all of 30 minutes. I downloaded Windows Vista and I was off running to the races.

The install process was especially smooth. Friends reported that Vista installs quickly, my experience did not reflect that and it seemed to take a good hour to fully install. Most of the hardware had build in Vista drivers.

The new look and feel is beautiful. Thankfully I purchased the laptop with 1 GB of memory and the dedicated (and at the time, kick ass) Nvidia GeForce 6800 256 MB (dedicated) video card. The fade look and shadows are very nice.

Vista is a bit of a memory hog and I regularly find that 500 MB of my memory is used even before I open up any programs. It will be interesting to see how Oracle 10g runs on Vista and SQL Server 2005 when I am running my demonstrations. With XP Professional, running Oracle and SQL Server 2005 together was risky business.

The only issues I have had so far have to do with my legacy programs. My HP printer will not install a driver, thus it’s practically worthless to me right now. I also use a statistical analysis package called STATA for my economics research, and that program would not install correctly on Vista. Even running as administrator with XP SP 2 compatibility did not work.

Thankfully I can still use my trusty Dell Dimension 8200 (4 ½ years old) to run my legacy apps and print documents. I certainly recommend anyone upgrading to Vista to consider having 2 GB of RAM as a minimum. I am loathe to upgrade the lappy for $200 right now as this machine will be replaced in 11 months with an Apple MacBook pro unless Dell has a more compelling product.

Along with Vista I installed Office 2007 Professional. I love the new look and features of this program and will probably do a separate write up of it later after I have used it more.

All in all, Vista appears to be a great step forward and I look forward to showing it off at the Miami code camp on February 10, 2007.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Data Warehouse opportunities in Tampa Bay

It seems appropriate that I have been requested to help find some good talent to work with in the Tampa Bay area and the benefit is that you will be able to work with me, thus you will learn from the best (*HA*). Keeping in line with my blogging policies, I will not say the employer but if you've seen me speak you know where I work.

Position requirements:
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College degree - no experience is okay, these are entry level positions
Willingness to learn
Good attitude

I've been speaking all over the state of FL this year and certainly there are 1 or 2 people who want to come work in a high-performance data warehouse environment, learn from people at the top of their game, and have a very strong resume builder position on their resumes.

Here's the technology you will be using:
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Oracle 9i/10g
IBM Websphere DataStage ETL
Quest TOAD for Oracle

We're also willing to consider entry-level people with experience in other ETL tools such as SSIS and Informatica.

If you are interested in learning more or want to send me your resume, my email is thedamndata AT yahoo DOT com. If you can't figure that one out, then don't bother.