SQL Management Studio Jr.

It’s almost inarguable that Microsoft’s IntelliSense is either the top dog, or in the top three at syntax suggestion/completion. What bothers me is that with standard Visual Studio installs (as recent as VS 2013), you don’t get the full SQL Management Studio package. Instead you have to go download SQL Management Studio Jr., with a severely reduced feature set, from Microsoft. Why should you care?

How many developers of relational database-backed applications are there in 2014 that don’t have to think about database performance or troubleshooting ever?
I hope that answer is close to zero.
Even if you’re fortunate enough to have an experienced database administrator, as a developer it would be in everyone’s best interest if you tried to make their job easier and not harder.

As a developer that’s using Microsoft’s database platform, even if you’re not necessarily using Microsoft’s languages (Python, PHP, Ruby, and Node are all supported on Windows Servers), you should be able to do some simple query plan analysis, reporting, and troubleshooting. Yet, the tools required to do these simple tasks are mysteriously left out of the “free” version of Management Studio.

Have a query that’s running long for no apparent reason? Have fun; you’re on your own – unless of course you have access to a Microsoft SQL Server license key and supporting disk image.
In order to have access to the latest SQL Server Profiler, Integration Tools, and Database Engine Tuning Advisor, you’ll either need a better MSDN account (the MSDN account included with Visual Studio didn’t include SQL Server for me) or a full-on SQL Server license.

Hell.

Luckily, my workplace has an MSDN account for us and I was able to use that. Had I been on my own, I would’ve been shelling out some serious dollars (SQL Server licensing is hilariously expensive) to have very basic tools that should be bundled with Visual Studio by default.

While some might view Visual Studio as the best IDE currently available, I still believe it has a ways to go in terms of developer friendly enhancements and decoupling from Microsoft as an avenue for revenue and instead using it as an incentive (reduced cost, free, etc.) to bring more developers to their platform. The full version of SQL Server Management Studio is a developer tool and should be included with every Visual Studio install.

Monument Valley

I normally don’t link to apps and games unless they’re relevant to an article, but Monument Valley is truly quite great and deserves it.

Monument Valley really is the perfect mobile game for me. I cannot recommend it highly enough for those that like fun puzzle games that are perfectly designed and suited for the mobile platform. It’s simple enough to play through a level or two in the time I have available, yet that sense of adventure is there so I never quite get bored and end up wishing I had more time to spend with it by the time I have to put my phone down.

To elaborate on “perfect mobile game,” I’m simply stating that many games are not designed to be played in short bursts of available free time that one might have while waiting for a cashier in the grocery store or for someone to arrive at a restaurant. Monument Valley is my new favorite game to fill these small voids in my life, so twitter will have to take the back seat once more.

Delivery, From The Internet

There are a lot of things that I dreamt up as a child:

I really liked drawing fantastical cars with my fancy colored pencils my mom would buy me.
I liked imagining what computers would be like.
All games would be virtual reality  and amazing (I was roughly five years old).

Once the internet came around and we had CompuServe (we had others but CompuServe made it more “real” to me as a child), I was certain that “everything” would be on and done through the internet. I was young and didn’t quite have a concept of the logistics involved in ordering a house on the internet and having it delivered – but I was certain these sort of things would take place soon.

When computer shopping around the year 2000, we ended up going with a Gateway, and when it was delivered (after ordering online) it felt like my imaginative dreams were finally coming true. It was amazing to me that a 50+ pound package could be delivered for for such a low price (I think delivery was $50-$99?). My mom and I were both very relieved to have not had to deal with the pressuring sales people at CompUSA, Best Buy, or Computer Builders Warehouse and we were further astounded that our custom computer was delivered within a month.

This week we’re getting our new bed delivered and it’s coming from somewhere near Topeka, Kansas…from “the internet”.

It’s an entire bed, and it weighs at least 100 lbs; delivery was free.
While a bed isn’t quite a house, it is just an odd moment that has triggered me to reflect on the progression of my own technology usage in my lifetime.

First Talk as a Speaker Submitted

I’ve never been particularly good at public speaking unless I am extremely passionate about the topic, or I’ve rehearsed my talk dozens of times. Even with rehearsal or passion, I’m not “good”, I just have less fear so I feel as if I’ve done a better job than if I was more fearful.

For me and my career, the most common venue for public speaking is during a meeting or presentation with a client. These client/customer meetings are generally easier for me due to my belief in my skills, abilities, or the product I’m effectively selling. Being able to stand behind and stake my reputation on something has been a terrific motivator and driving force behind where I’m at in my career today, but doing this as a speaker at a tech conference seems significantly more difficult. Most of the tech I have either passion for or belief in, or both (and that I would be qualified to speak about), are things I have not had any hand in creating. That lack of ownership made it difficult for me to justify to myself that I am even qualified to speak about or stand behind said tech. The other way I’d justify things is if I was bringing something new to the table about a topic, and previously all of the items I had wanted to talk about were already being covered in some way by pretty well-established speakers.

I finally overcame my own ridiculous self-doubt/mildly ridiculous justifications and submitted a talk entitled:

PHP misses you.

I’m 100% happy with this, regardless of the possibility of it being accepted or not.

The talk revolves around the idea that PHP has changed a lot and was spurred by a random conversation I had with someone about PHP at CodeMash 2014. I can’t recall the exact statement, but the person I was having the conversation with (honestly) posed a question that went something like:

“Oh, PHP – are they still doing releases of that?”

Yes, they are, and things are getting better finally. My potential talk would showcase lots of recent work that has gone on in PHP like closures, functional and object-oriented code, asynchronous, event-driven and non-blocking I/O, generators, iterators, and more neat things you can quickly use to get stuff done in PHP. It seems as though with this talk that I should be able to bring something new to the table for most attendees (though some pieces of my talk may be old hat to frequent PHP developers).

I realize I made the “mistake” of only submitting one talk. Most frequent speakers seem to acknowledge some sort of common knowledge that if you want to get accepted you should submit as many talks as you’re qualified for. I realize this is probably a more strict requirement for someone that they have to pay travel expenses for, but I live in the area of the conference I submitted my talk to so maybe my lack of multiple submissions will be overlooked.

I am excited and happy that I am taking steps forward to rectify some self-doubt and grow myself and my career further. I hope that this marks the beginning of another chapter in my life at the ending of which I’m amazed at the result and how I arrived.

When an employee or department falls for spyware pop-ups

Malware gets installed, computers get hosed, and hilarity ensues, but at what cost?

Everyone should take a really long, hard look at themselves and ask if their abilities are at the level the company requires them to be at. If not, do everything you can as an employee or organization to take a step forward. If, as an individual, you can’t take that step, you should probably find another job.

If as a company you can’t take that first step, you’ll likely be obsolete soon.

The best or nothing.™ – adopted elsewhere

My girlfriend and I talk about this on occasion, but for a moment, imagine if the motto “The best or nothing™,” was adopted by people or companies other than Mercedes Benz®. You can take this opportunity to imagine the ridiculous results of this – which is usually the path of discussion we take:

“How was your day today?”
“Well, I didn’t feel my best so I just did nothing at all.”

“We’ve been waiting four hours for our food, where the hell is it?”
“I’ve asked the chef numerous times, he simply keeps responding – The best, or nothing.”

And so on.

But for a moment, think about if this motto was adopted by people for things they’re truly passionate about.

http://phpsadness.com/ wouldn’t even need to exist.

 

THE BEST OR NOTHING™ and Mercedes Benz® are either registered trademarks or trademarks of DAIMLER AG and/or Mercedes-Benz USA in the United States and/or other countries.

Brand New 2013 Ford Focus

My girlfriend needed a new car back in 2012 and bought a 2013 Ford Focus Titanium Hatchback as soon as that year’s lineup was first available because she really liked the voice activated system and the idealist future it made a person desire. She arguably spent the most money you could on that particular model (though she did get a discount from my X-plan pricing) and we began having problems with the vehicle(not just the MyFord Touch problems that everyone had/has) on day one (seriously). This is a short documentary on problems and fixes since we got the car back from the most recent service department visit on 2014-02-20.

Door handle sensors:
We had problems with the door handle sensors unlocking the car. The locking functionality worked perfect the entire time, but the unlocking seemed to have moments when it just refused to work. After refusing to unlock, then upon unlocking the car manually or via the key fob, driving the car, and trying the door handle unlock again on the next entry it would work perfectly fine. We were told numerous times that they “might be dirty and need cleaning”. On our last trip, they finally looked into the issue and said they fixed the handle sensors. The handle sensors actually seem to unlock the car all the time now so the door handle problem may have be fixed – over a year after owning the vehicle and having these issues.

Didn’t start via key fob:
Every time this happens, the car acts like you’ve done the button press combination correctly, flashes the lights accordingly, and then instead of starting the car just honks and flashes the lights once.

  • 02-22 (two days after we got it back) – no start via key fob.
  • 02-24 – no start via key fob.
  • 03-01 – no start via key fob.

Shifting problems:
The car either shifts horribly at unpredictable times, regardless of being warmed up or cold (the only predictability is that it seems to happen more often when warmed up), or forgets which gear it should be in at its current state and is in a much higher gear causing the car to nearly stall itself out on acceleration and then abruptly hard-shift into the lower gear only after further acceleration is applied. This “current gear” problem happens regardless of driving style – Sunday driver-style slow acceleration or city-style moderate acceleration does not change the shifting pattern when this does occur (acceleration amount does not cause the downshift to a lower gear to be less abrupt and terribly “hard”).
This gearing problem makes it honestly seem like the car has the wrong “current gear” value – it usually happens after slowing, coming to a stop, or coasting – as if it is still using the previous “high” gear, and then has no idea what to do when acceleration is applied and it is nearly stalling itself.

  • 02-23 – Still shifting terrible when coming from highway driving. After some highway driving, driving at a lower speed on non-highway roads causes the car to shudder and mis-shift when changing gears. Was able to reproduce this twice.
  • 03-01 – Terrible at shifting again today
  • 03-08 – Terrible at shifting after highway mileage again.
  • 03-09 – Terrible at shifting from not-quite-cold start going down sidestreets. Today it acted just like it used to before the 02-20-2014 fix – shifting terrible from a dead stop like it was in 3rd gear, then hard shifting into first after a few moments of acceleration at 3rd.

At low speeds you can also hear grinding noises when shifting. I can’t tell if this is the grill active-shutter or if the noises are the transmission, either way the amount of noises (rattling at a stop when the car is fully warmed-up, vibrations in the cabin that are obnoxious over the Bluetooth phone connection, and weird grinding noises seemingly coming from underneath) coming from this brand new vehicle are unsettling. After only a year of ownership and having been in the shop 4-5 times, the first time within weeks of owning the car (we waited to see if the issues would just go away), this is easily the worst first new car buying experience we could’ve had.

The shop representative we worked with actually mentioned to us that he recommends getting the car-rental plan when buying these new cars with all the new fancy “features” on them that may break. If they might break – why are they shipping with a car, that if properly maintained, could last a lifetime? This may sound like idealism, but this is a $30,000 vehicle. I keep vehicles for a long time, and I bring vehicles that should’ve been “retired” back into service for years (my ’97 Ford Escort lx is a great example). When we bought this vehicle, we had no intention of getting rid of it…ever. With documented problems emerging two weeks after (we had the problems the day of purchase and going forward), how could Ford not see this as a serious problem and just give us a new vehicle?

And on another entirely different customer service note: why the hell should we, or anyone, have to pay for a rental when we purchased a $30,000 car that is in repair due to manufacturer defects? (On our most recent visit, the dealership finally offered to provide a rental, which I’ll get to in a moment.)

The Ford dealer repair shop we visit continues to tell us these problems aren’t out of the ordinary with these new vehicles and that they’re “tech” problems, as the transmission has a control module that runs software. If this software is running dependent on sensors and data feeds, could it not be that the software is not a problem, but instead the data sources? We’ve had software updates and fixes applied multiple times, yet the control modules and all related data sources have not been replaced to my knowledge. My software development mind tells me – if you’ve “fixed” the code multiple times and the issue is still occurring, you either haven’t fixed the code and need better testing, or the data sources are bad and the code is possibly behaving correctly. My girlfriend even rented a 2013 Ford Focus the last time her car was in the shop (she was finally provided a rental by the dealer), the same year and model as she currently owns, and yet it had zero of the same problems, so the code apparently works.

At this point, even if the problems were fixed I’d want to have a new transmission due to all the unnecessary wear and tear that these problems have placed on it.

Our 1997 Ford Escort has less weird noises and has been in the shop less times. This ’97 escort was revived from over a year of complete slumber (in Michigan even) and cost a mere $300 + $500 or so in repairs I initially performed.

If you’re having similar new-car problems and happen to live in Michigan, you may want to look at this.