SQL Server Magazine Web Exclusive 49388
TITLE: SQL Server Magazine UPDATE, February 9, 2006—Tutorials in Books Online
By Various Authors
InstantDoc ID 49388
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February 9, 2006
2. News & Views
3. Reader Challenge
4. Events and Resources
5. Featured White Paper
6. Peer to Peer
8. New & Improved
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by Brian Moran, firstname.lastname@example.org
This is the second article in a three-part series about the direction of SQL Server Books Online (BOL). In last week's SQL Server Perspectives, The Future of Books Online, Part 1 (http://lists.sqlmag.com/t?ctl=2070B:7B3DA ), I introduced David Shank, Microsoft Group Documentation Manager for SQL Server User Education, the team that's responsible for the current and future direction of BOL. As I promised, this week's article covers the growing role of tutorials in BOL. In addition, I share some more insights from David about the future direction of content in BOL.
SQL Server 2005 BOL is the first BOL release in which Microsoft has made tutorials a central component of the content. A main chapter heading in the BOL Table of Contents is called SQL Server 2005 Tutorials, and SQL Server 2005 program group even includes a link for tutorials to make it easy to get started. The RTM version of SQL Server 2005 BOL includes tutorials that cover Tools, Analysis Services, Data Mining, SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS), Notification Services, and Reporting Services. The December 2005 BOL refresh added seven new and four modified tutorial topics. (You can easily find these tutorials listed in "New and Updated Books Online Topics.")
I don't want to focus on the mechanics of the tutorials themselves. The tutorials include good content and are a great way to explore unfamiliar product features, so I encourage you to use them. But a more interesting point is that the inclusion of the tutorials shows that Microsoft is thinking about the difference between "syntax-level" knowledge (i.e., content that just describes how the product works) and "how-to" information that helps a customer learn how to use the product. Books Online is part of a team called "User Education" for a reason. Placing how-to information directly within the mandate of the User Education team--to be delivered through BOL--is a wonderful thing.
Providing how-to information through BOL-embedded tutorials is a great direction for the future of BOL, but to some extent, customers might be limited in their ability to use tutorials. You need time and resources to configure your environment and work through a tutorial. Basic tutorials? Sure, you can run through a simple, novice-oriented tutorial on a vanilla, out-of-the-box install. But alas, working through more advanced tutorial concepts often requires more advanced, complicated configurations. Sometimes a novice or intermediate user simply doesn't have time or the right skill set to build the environment necessary to explore more advanced, hands-on exercises. This is especially true with the integration of .NET into SQL Server, which blurs the lines between DBAs and developers.
However, I was excited to learn from David that the User Education team is exploring ways to use Virtual PC-based images as part of the tutorial environment. Very cool. David wouldn't commit to a time when Microsoft will begin delivering on that idea, but I'll have more to say about it in next week's SQL Server Perspectives. Also, as I've discussed in previous Perspectives articles, Microsoft has taken baby steps in this direction by offering Web-based virtual labs for SQL Server and other products, which you can find at http://lists.sqlmag.com/t?ctl=20712:7B3DA .
In the beginning (well, at least the first version of BOL), content was primarily focused around syntax--definitions and explanations of features. BOL will always be the definitive source for syntax, but tutorials are more about education than about documentation. In that spirit, Microsoft has made some other cool changes in BOL that emphasize education rather than just documentation. Two important changes are integrated Ask a Question links and an integrated ability to search selected community sites.
To be honest, the Ask a Question link is a bit lame; it doesn't include any "smart searching" based on the jump-off point of the currently selected BOL topic. Without that smart search, you might be better off with a direct Internet search. However, the idea of linking the ability to ask a question to the location of a BOL topic is very cool indeed. I'll follow up on that idea in more detail next week.
However, the ability to search important community sites directly from the BOL interface is quite useful. From the BOL main menu, select Tools, Options, Help, Online to quickly see a list of eight major community sites (in addition to MSDN) that you can search for SQL Server content. I mentioned to David that with this feature, BOL is becoming a portal for all relevant SQL Server-related content, and David seemed to strongly agree that was an important direction the User Eduation team was taking BOL.
That's all for this week. This second part of the commentary wraps up the direct feedback gleaned from my interview with David. Next week I'll share some of my own ideas about what I think the long-term direction of BOL should be.
NOTE: David Shank has graciously invited SQL Server Magazine UPDATE readers to email him ideas about what BOL is doing well and not so well. Do you have feedback about what BOL should be? Send it to David at email@example.com. Please send your feedback to me too at firstname.lastname@example.org and help me keep my finger on the pulse of the SQL Server community.
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2. News & Views
Manage SQL Server 2005 Service Accounts Through WMI
Permissions on SQL Server 2005 service account are managed by group membership. When you try to use the Windows Service Control Manager to change these service accounts, you must manually remove the old accounts, then add the new accounts to the corresponding groups. However, SQL Server 2005 includes the WMI Provider for Configuration Management, which you can use to manage changes to group membership and changes to service accounts. The Microsoft article "How to change the SQL Server 2005 service accounts by using the Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) Provider for Configuration Management" provides an explanation of the management option and a script you can use to simplify the operations. You can read the entire article at http://lists.sqlmag.com/t?ctl=20716:7B3DA.
Results of Previous Instant Poll: On Board with SQL Server 2005
"Have you migrated to SQL Server 2005?" Here are the results from the 102 votes (deviations from 100 are due to a rounding error):
New Instant Poll: SQL Server 2005 Editions
"What SQL Server 2005 editions do you plan to use?" Go to the SQL Server Magazine home page ( http://lists.sqlmag.com/t?ctl=2071E:7B3DA ) and submit your vote for
3. Reader Challenge
February Reader Challenge Solution: Imposing Data Restrictions
by Umachandar Jayachandran, email@example.com
Congratulations to Carlos Antonio Alvarado Andrade and Toby Ovod-Everett. Carlos won first prize of $100 for the best solution to the February Reader Challenge, "Imposing Data Restrictions." Toby won second prize of $50. You can read a recap of the problem and the solution to the February Reader Challenge at http://lists.sqlmag.com/t?ctl=20709:7B3DA
March Reader Challenge: Enforcing Restricted Uniqueness on Columns
Now, test your SQL Server savvy in the March Reader Challenge, "Enforcing Restricted Uniqueness on Columns" (below). Submit your solution in an email message to firstname.lastname@example.org by February 16. Umachandar Jayachandran, a SQL Server Magazine technical editor, will evaluate the responses. We'll announce the winner in an upcoming SQL Server Magazine UPDATE. The first-place winner will receive $100, and the second-place winner will receive $50.
Here's the challenge:
John is a database architect for a company that uses a sales application populated with customer data from various data sources. The customer data is stored in a SQL Server 2000 database table called Customers. The following column shows some of the columns in the table:
CREATE TABLE Customers ( CustomerId int identity(1,1) NOT NULL primary key, CompanyCode varchar(10) NULL /* ... other columns ...*/ )
The CompanyCode column isn't always present in the data that SQL Server imports into the table. In some cases, the value can be empty or NULL. John wants to enforce uniqueness on the CompanyCode column--but only for non-null values--and exclude empty values. How can John enforce uniqueness with minimal coding and without affecting thelegacy applications that provide the customer data?
4. Events and Resources
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5. Featured White Paper
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6. Peer to Peer
Hot Tip: Troubleshooting Performance Problems
by Brian Moran, email@example.com
Q. I have two servers, Production and Development, that are identical in hardware and setup, although the execution plans are different. A query that I run on the Production server takes 3 seconds to complete; the same query on the Development server takes 66 seconds! I've tried everything I can think of to troubleshoot the slowdown, including using DBCC INDEXDEFRAG, DBCC DBREINDEX, and DBCC SHOWCONTIG. Please advise.
Read the answer to this question today at http://lists.sqlmag.com/t?ctl=20708:7B3DA
Hot Article: LINQ to the Future
Microsoft's new Language Integrated Query (LINQ--pronounced link) project is the next step in database-development technology. In his February article "LINQ to the Future," Michael Otey explains how LINQ addresses the current database-development model's disconnect between the object-oriented programming model and procedural, T-SQL-based data-access code. Read this article today and post your comments at http://lists.sqlmag.com/t?ctl=20707:7B3DA
In a Nutshell: Swat That Bug!
When many people hear that Microsoft is eager for product feedback and bug reports, they roll their eyes and say "Yeah, right!" But Microsoft is genuinely interested in getting word straight from its customers' mouths. Now, Microsoft is making a serious effort to make such reporting easy. In this week's blog "Swat That Bug!" Kevin Kline tells you where to go to give Microsoft feedback, communicate directly with the Microsoft product development teams, and track the responses to your suggestions. Read the blog and let Kevin know what you think today at http://lists.sqlmag.com/t?ctl=2070C:7B3DA
Hot Threads: Check out the following hot threads, and see other discussions in our 30 SQL Server forums. http://lists.sqlmag.com/t?ctl=20715:7B3DA Administration: Permissions for Stored Procedures http://lists.sqlmag.com/t?ctl=20702:7B3DA T-SQL: Tough Grand Total Needed http://lists.sqlmag.com/t?ctl=20703:7B3DA DTS: DTS Error http://lists.sqlmag.com/t?ctl=20705:7B3DA SQL Server 2005 Management Tools: Management Studio and Object Scripting http://lists.sqlmag.com/t?ctl=20704:7B3DA
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7. AnnouncementsVIP Subscribers Have It All!
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8. New & Improvedby Blake Eno, firstname.lastname@example.org
Monitor Multiple SQL Server Components
AdventNet announced ManageEngine Applications Manager 6, enterprise-ready, Web-based application-management software for SQL Server 2005 and SQL Server 2000. The product's SQL Server Monitoring feature manages your SQL Servers and ensures optimal access to all the metrics that SQL Server exposes for the database engine and each database instance. The product monitors multiple SQL Server components, including memory utilization, buffer-manager statistics, connection statistics, cache details, lock details, SQL Server statistics, latch details, and access-method details. The software's monitoring capabilities include alert generation based on thresholds you set; performance graphing and reporting; connection tracking; and identification of locking activity by user. Pricing for ManageEngine Applications Manager 6 starts at $595, and a free 30-day trial download is available. For more information, contact AdventNet at 925-924-9500, 888-720-9500, or email@example.com.
BMC Software announced support for SQL Server 2005 in SQL-BackTrack for Microsoft SQL Server, an enterprise-class backup and recovery solution, and BMC Performance Manager for Databases, SQL Server database monitoring and management software. SQL-BackTrack features Point-In-Time Recovery, which lets you identify the time corruption occurred and automatically recover the database to the point before the problem began. SQL BackTrack also includes logical extraction, which lets you recover individual objects directly from the physical backups. Performance Manager lets you manage your entire SQL Server database environment form a single UI, letting you proactively monitor and manager your SQL Server environment. The product identifies potential performance problems by capturing and providing real-time and historical performance information. Pricing for Performance Manager for Databases starts at $975 and SQL-BackTrack for Microsoft SQL Server starts at $1,295. For more information, contact BMC Software at 713-918-8800 or 800-841-2031.
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