The concept of "information overload" in the IT space has been one of my pet peeves for a while. My basic complaint is that an infinite amount of cool SQL Server information is available but that trying to digest any reasonable amount of it is overwhelming. Although I'll probably always be able to find more information than I can use, it sure would be nice if vendors such as Microsoft did a better job of creating portals that let me easily track down and browse relevant and useful material.

Introducing the new and improved Microsoft SQL Server Tech Center at http://lists.sqlmag.com/t?ctl=B60A:7B3DB . I had planned to devote this column to sharing the best tidbits I found by browsing the site. But a few hours of exploration later, my list has grown too big. I can't possibly decide what to mention and what not to mention. What's a SQL Server columnist to do? Spend some time browsing around. Honestly, there's too much fun stuff to even attempt to list in this short space. Microsoft did a nice job with the re-launch of this site last week. Information overload is still a problem, and always will be, but the new format seems to present a tremendous amount of useful information in a reasonable easy-to-use format.

Yes, I just said that there was too much cool content to even think about listing my favorites. But when you visit, you'll find plenty of highlights to catch your attention. I especially love the effort Microsoft made in creating virtual playgrounds such as the TechNet Virtual Labs ( http://lists.sqlmag.com/t?ctl=B609:7B3DB ), which give you the opportunity to learn new technology on the Internet in a Virtual PC (VPC) sandbox that you don't have to spend time creating. Honestly, I'd be happier if Microsoft simply created VPC images that I could download with evaluation copies of software so that I could play for weeks instead of 90 minutes at a time. But this is a great start, so I won't complain too much.

The virtual labs help me address another of my pet peeves, the problem of not having time to build test platforms to play with cool new technology coming down the pike from Microsoft. One day, customers will pay me to do nothing but sit around and play with new toys (I can dream right? ). But for now, most of my customers expect me to solve real problems, today. So, I have to balance my time between building new images to play and learn and doing real work. I'm sure you face the same dilemma, but the new and improved SQL Server Tech Center is worth spending some time on. Enjoy. Learn.