The TSA Ruined My Demos … Sorta

Posted by on July 7, 2014 in demos, development, presenting, SQLbits | 0 comments

Happy Monday, all. As some of you know, I will be heading to Europe to be at SQLBits XII next week. I’m really looking forward to it, but I got a bit of bad news this weekend. Bad news is relative here – what I really have is a first world problem. Some of you may have seen the news this past weekend about how passengers flying back to the US from EMEA and the Middle East (official TSA post is here) may be subject to enhanced security measures around electronics. Basically, they want to make sure what you’ve got isn’t a bomb. I don’t want to be the victim of one mid-air. On that level, I totally am on board with that policy. That means things like laptops, cellular phones, portable music/video devices, etc. need to possibly be demonstrated as being able to be turned on at their request.

As a frequent flier, I’m used to changing rules and regulations at the airport. This new one, however, threw me for a loop because it basically torpedoed my portable demo setup. For the past year-and-a-half, I have been using a small form factor PC (currently  the Gigabyte Brix i7 configured with Hyper-V; I need to do a new post with how I’ve been using it) for my demos connected to something else. It’s been a really agile – and lightweight – setup. I’m still 4lbs or under. I was going to use the Surface Pro 3 (review coming soon) and the Brix, but not now. The Brix is a real PC – not a laptop. It does not have a battery or monitor.

Therefore by the letter of the law, if they ask me to power it on, I couldn’t without some juice. And I don’t think they’re going to provide me a plug to show them it’s just a computer (and then I’d have to hook it up via the cable to my SP3 … nightmare). That means I possibly couldn’t fly and I’d have to leave it there. Let me think about that … no. I’m not going to abandon something that cost me about $2,000 when all is said and done (would be cheaper now than when I did it …). I’m certainly not going to check it, either. And there’s no saying they wouldn’t remove it from my bag and deem it harmful. No win there. I looked into sending it back to myself (FedEx or something), but since Bits ends on a Saturday, there’s no local FedEx depot near Telford and none in London open late or on Sunday. Basically, a total no go. I am also not chancing that the internet will work, so hosting online or sticking my Brix on a VPN back home would be risky. That is why I am always self contained for my demos – some of which are very complex configurations. I did look for some sort of portable battery solution but that ran into a dead end.

So the SP3 will stay home right next to the Brix. I’m not leaving my fate to the security folks at the airport who may or may not ask me to turn my stuff on. Because of this, I am now basically redoing all of my demos under VMware Workstation on my laptop because I do not want to dual boot my laptop at the moment. I may ultimately also do that so I literally have total redundancy but that’s besides the point.

I do hope cooler heads prevail here over time because this one really hurts me in the short term – I’ve got a lot of work to do now to prepare for Bits this week whereas before I had very little. Long term, this is an investment, but this workload and headache was not one I needed right now. Thank heavens I still have a laptop that has 16GB of memory.

The biggest silver lining here: at least I wasn’t already in Europe when this went into effect. As much as my time will now suck this week, I can deal with it.

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Updates – New Website, Where Is the Book?, Blogging, Training, MVP Status, and More

Posted by on July 1, 2014 in Book, MVP, PASS, PASS Summit, pre-conferece, presenting, SQL Server University, SQLbits, SQLHAU, training | 2 comments

Hello everyone and welcome to the revamped online home for SQLHA. Besides the heavy customer workload, helping to run a company, writing the book (more on that in a bit), trying to eat and sleep every now and then, as well as all of the training/speaking, I’ve spent the past few months working with our website developer on this massive update. If you are wondering why I haven’t blogged since February, it’s because we put a code freeze on anything with the website until it was complete to ease migration. It was not lack of interest on my part – trust me. Now that the site is live, expect more regular updates from me including a review of the Microsoft Surface Pro 3!

In other news, SQLHA will be out and about over the next few months. I’ll be heading over to the UK to speak at SQLBits XII in a few weeks. I’ll be speaking all three days, including delivering a full Training Day (“The A to Z of Availability Groups”). Over the past few months I’ve done some pre-conferences at SQL Saturdays with labs to test the feasibility, but this will be the first major conference I’ll be doing a pre-con where I will also have the labs. It’s bring your own device (BYOD). I’m really excited to get back over for Bits as it’s one of my favorite SQL Server events and I haven’t been in a few years.

Ben will be presenting at IT/Dev Connections in September,  and the whole SQLHA team will be attending PASS Summit 2014. I will be delivering a pre-con (“The A to Z of Availability Groups”) on November 4, and both Ben and I will be doing a regular session during Summit. As with Bits, the goal is to have my pre-con have the lab component as well. I’m working closely with PASS to ensure that this happens, but at the scale we need, we need to ensure that the Ts are crossed and Is dotted. Having a lab will change the game at a conference like Summit. I cannot wait. If that wasn’t enough, we’ll once again have The Consultant’s Corner booth along with Denny Cherry & Associates as well as Heraflux. Max will definitely be in there, so remember to say hi to him, too.

This week I was also renewed as a Cluster MVP. I never assume from year to year and it’s always an honor.

Due to popular demand, I have been locking down dates for my 4-day Mission Critical SQL Server class. I’m very humbled people want to take it! Right now there are confirmed dates for Boston (October 20 – 23, 2014), Philadelphia (March 30 – April 2, 2015), and a return to London England (September 28 – October 1, 2015). Other cities are being finalized, and I’m looking at the southern as well as the western United States for now. My goal is to have as many locked in dates well in advance so you can make your training plans for late 2014 and 2015. Also keep in mind that the earlier you register, the cheaper the class is (Boston and Philadelphia have nice discounts at the moment …).

The online plans for SQLHA University are also moving forward, so we’ll have some stuff there, too (won’t spoil all of our plans just yet in that arena, but know that we’re planning some cool stuff if it all works out). That’s my next big thing to tackle once the book is done (outside of any customer work), which brings me to the last order of business: the Mission Critical SQL Server book.

This has been my biggest personal disappointment; I’m not going to lie. I really wanted it to be done and out by now, but given everything on my plate, it just isn’t complete yet. Most of my books have taken anywhere from 6 – 12 months to complete, and this one is appearing to be no different. This one is also larger than nearly every other one, complicating matters. Trust me when I say I want it done arguably more than you guys want it in your hands!

I knew when I started down the self-publishing route there would be bumps in the road. Nearly every one has been eliminated at this point. The biggest problem now is quite literally time. My plan was to have time to complete primary writing of it in May and June, but we have been working on a big customer engagement and that hasn’t left me much time or energy to work on the book. I sleep very little as is. This isn’t an excuse, just reality. Anyone who has ordered the book is also a customer, and I take that very seriously. Things are stabilizing a bit, so the reality of what I’m looking at is to finish writing this summer, have it edited, made pretty, and hopefully out and done well before PASS Summit. Editing and production are unknowns at the time, but fingers crossed it will all go smoothly. Remember I’m also having this reviewed (it’s not just me writing it), so I need to ensure I get at least a few reviews in on each chapter to know I’m not only technically correct, but I haven’t missed anything. There’s a process. I will not put out a crap product, but I also know it needs to get done  and in your hands. You paid for it, you deserve it.

I know an apology may not cut it for some of you – and I truly am sorry about this. I know this to be true, but I really am being totally up front here; I have no ulterior motive. If you’ve read my other books, you know what’s coming. If you’ve subscribed to updates, don’t worry. I’ll take care of you. I am a man of my word on this.

There’s also upside to this: SQL Server 2014 content is definitely in now. Maybe not everything, but that’s what the updates will have and once the base is done, I’ll be updating the content hopefully on a pretty regular basis. v1 is always the hard part.

So I’ve been busy … and so has SQLHA! I’m very proud to work with Max and Ben here, and can’t wait to see everyone on the road over the next few months.

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Farewell, Sony Vaio

Posted by on February 6, 2014 in hardware, Sony, Vaio | 1 comment

Today is a bittersweet day for me. No, it’s not because my class in London is concluding (more on that in an upcoming post). Today, Sony announced that they are selling the Vaio division. While it looks like the company buying it, Japan Industrial Partners Inc., will pick up some of the business and people (I guess somewhat like when IBM sold their PC division to Lenovo), it is the end of an era.

Before you say, “It’s just a PC, Allan,” I have a sentimental relationship with Vaios. I’ve also had a love-hate relationship with owning them, too. The first laptop I truly lusted after was the Vaio TR as well as the still enviable X505 which was thin before thin was even cool. It’s still a wonder to behold. My first Vaio (which I still have) and UMPC was the U70P (see Sony’s old site in Japan here) 10 years ago. It’s still, like the X505, a marvel (I’m using its keyboard with the Tap 11 today). It was certainly ahead of its time and to this day remains one of the favorites of any laptop I have ever owned. Heck, one of my music players – the VGF-AP1L – was Vaio branded. It sounded great and had this cool touch interface, and it had a color screen which was unusual at the time.

Since then I have owned a VGN-SZ90 (which I wrote Pro SQL Server 2005 High Availability on), a VGN-Z90 (the Z that kicked off the modern line) which boasted one of the first proprietary RAIDed SSD configurations, two Gs (my favorite ultraportable PC ever if I was honest with myself), the Vaio Duo 11, a Vaio Pro 13, and finally, the Vaio Tap 11. [As an aside, I love how Sony has maintained all of those old sites ...]

The Z90 and the Pro 13 were really the only ones I never bonded with in any way. The Pro 13 I would argue is still one of the best ultrabooks made but I didn’t love the keyboard; as someone who does a lot of writing, that was an issue. Sony unfortunately these past few years couldn’t always deliver the specs I wanted – enter the Panasonics I’ve owned from Japan.

Sure, Sony’s laptops could be expensive (especially if you ordered them from Japan as I often did; the Pro 13 and Tap 11 are from the US, though). They had one thing most PCs did not have: a bit of style. The Japanese models – until recently anyway – had higher specs or different options you couldn’t get outside of Japan … but they offered US keyboards. The U70P, SZ, Z, and Gs were all Japanese. Think about your average ThinkPad – black, square, businesslike – boring. Do they do they job? You bet, but when one wants their laptop to look a bit better, outside of Apple, people thought Sony. In fact if stories are to be believed, Apple wanted Sony to run OS X.

While my daily driver is not the Tap 11 today, I will always have fond memories of some of the marvels Sony produced when it came to laptops. When you see a boring Lenovo, Dell, or HP, remember what Sony once gave us. Sometimes unusual, often flashy, not always practical, but they did some cool stuff. Rest in peace, Sony Vaio.

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Wherefore Art Thou Mission Critical SQL Server Book?

Posted by on December 29, 2013 in Book | 4 comments

So where is that book, Allan?

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Announcing SQLHA University

Posted by on December 16, 2013 in Recent News, SQLHA, SQLHA University, SQLHAU | 0 comments

SQLHA University opens its doors to the public

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The SQLHA University Backstory

Posted by on in SQLHA, SQLHA University, SQLHAU, training | 0 comments

Why is Allan all excited about SQLHAU?

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CONTEST! Win A Seat To Allan’s Mission Critical SQL Server Class in Chicago

Posted by on November 14, 2013 in mission critical, SQL Server, training | 0 comments

Want to win a seat in Allan’s Chicago Mission Critical SQL Server class? Read on …

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Advice for the Wannabe (International) Road Warrior

Posted by on November 13, 2013 in advice, travel | 3 comments

Allan’s advice for surviving on the road …

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Chicago Mission Critical SQL Server Class – Grab Your Seat Today!

Posted by on November 12, 2013 in AlwaysOn, mission critical, SQL Server, training | 0 comments

Register for Allan’s Mission Critical SQL Server class before all the seats are gone …

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A Look Back at PASS Summit 2013 and Two Weeks of Training in Australia

Posted by on November 7, 2013 in Panasonic, PASS Summit, speaking | 2 comments

Reflections on Summit 2013 scores, upcoming training, and two weeks of training in Australia

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