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Happy Anniversary (To Me), Training and Book Updates, and Other Thoughts

Posted by on August 12, 2014 in advice, PASS Summit, speaking, SQLbits, SQLHA | 0 comments

It is hard to believe that in August of 2007 I made the leap and went independent. Seven years (now starting number eight) later, I’m still doing my thing. It’s hard to imagine how scary it was leaving the confines of regular paychecks to the unknown. I’ve said it many times, but if you don’t have the stomach (or money to pay someone you trust) to run a business, don’t go independent. Having skills to do the job is not enough to make it. When I make the leap of faith and invested in myself, I said I’d see where I was after a year. Then two … and now, I can’t imagine doing anything else. Have I had my share of problems in this tenure? You bet, but as they say, adversity makes us stronger. Life isn’t all sunshine and roses, kids.

SQLBits XII was great and there’s not much to say that hasn’t been said by others. It’s one of, if not the, favorite conference of mine. And I do like PASS Summit, but Bits is just always spectacular. If you ever get the chance to attend or speak, and can – do it!

I am cannot wait to deliver my availability groups precon at PASS Summit in November, and am excited to have everyone do the labs. Let’s see if the Washington State Convention Center’s WiFi holds up :) Have you registered? If not, what are you waiting for?

My plans for delivering my 4-day Mission Critical SQL Server class are coming along. I’ve got dates in Boston in October (before Summit), March 2015 in Philadelphia, and September 2015 in London (with Technitrain again). I am close to solidifying dates in Dallas in early 2015 as well as some other stuff. Stay tuned!

The book is finally coming along nicely. I’ve made great progress over the past few weeks and you guys will see a lot of content soon. I also think I may have found the right editor which is key to making things look pretty for you guys.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you may have seen that Robin Williams tragically passed away today (this was written on August 11th). I loved Robin Williams – he was one of the few people that could consistently make me laugh. He was a very talented individual, and I agree with the cries that if it truly was suicide due to depression (at the time of writing, that has not been officially stated), this will hopefully shed light on true issues that people have both apparent and hidden. Robin certainly had other demons which took him to places I cannot fathom. My thoughts are with his family at this time.

Looking at this from an outside point of view, it is hard to imagine what it would be like to be Robin Williams. People expect you to be the Genie or some manic character improvising all the time. There is no way you could lead anything approximating a normal life if the expectation – even if unrealistic – is to be “on” 24 x 7. Don’t get me wrong – he was a comedic genius. I don’t use that word lightly; he truly was. But that has to weigh on you; how can it not? Money and fame do not buy happiness. I didn’t know Robin, and I could be totally off base here, but knowing what I experience even on a small level, I’m not sure I’m not.

A good case in point – see my post about presenting at Summit after my friend Mike died shortly before the conference. August 28th of this month will mark the third anniversary of his passing which makes this post more poignant. In hindsight, there is no way I should have been presenting that pre-con or spotlight session; hell, I probably should not have even been at Summit. I will freely say that now. But I felt an obligation to everyone who paid for that pre-con. So I tried to put my best face on and brave it. I’m sure people would have understood but it would have been hard for everyone involved – including myself – since there would not have been a lot of time for PASS to do something. It was not about the money; I would have gladly traded whatever I was paid to have Mike back. I thought I was doing the right thing for all involved but I wasn’t – at least for me. I needed to grieve.

And let’s face it, in our social media-conscious age, if you have a negative interaction with someone, in minutes – if not seconds – it would be blasted to Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Instagram – you name it. I know when I am at conferences I realize that I need to be “on” regardless of the type of day or week I was having. The last thing I need is to have someone call me this, that, or the other because you know if it’s on the ‘net, it must be true! As an independent consultant any ding is not a good one if it persists. We all have our bad moments, except this time it can leave a lasting impression. This is why when you see me at a conference, during a training class, etc., I am “on”, but when I’m not there, I’m not. That is not to say I am a different person – I am not. But even I need some time not to be answering questions about clusters. I’m not writing my book because I hate the topic! My brain needs to do other things from time to time. I know, shocker.

I lead a life currently filled with first world problems. I am very, very lucky to be fortunate to have a roof over my head, food in my mouth, and clothes on my back. Anything else – including material possessions – is a blessing (and I would be lying if I said I hated some things … like laptops …). I count my blessings every day to have good friends and family and an excellent support system where I can reach out to for advice of all kinds, or just to chat. With that, I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to my colleagues and customers, along with my family and friends, who have made these past seven years great. Looking forward to many more.

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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

The Vaio is dead.

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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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