Retrieving the SQL Server License Key

Strangely enough its been a long time since I installed SQL in production. It’s almost always done by someone on the server team and that’s fine with me, clicking the wizard (or running the install script) isn’t the interesting part. Today though, I needed to add a named instance (also rare) and didn’t have the license key. Silly to be blocked for such a small thing. A quick search led me to this bit of Powershell that retrieved the key after a couple of edits. This script looks like it might avoid the edits, but I didn’t try it (it was second on the search results).

I wonder about the merit of requiring the key to be entered when there is already an existing instance on the server. Probably not worth the effort for such an edge case. Going further though, is there still value in having a license key? I’m not arguing the licensing aspect, just how we do it. I’ve never seen anyone check the license keys. You do an inventory and a true-up and that’s it.

PASS Nominating Committee Update

Today PASS released a bunch of stuff for the upcoming election including the attributes of an “ideal candidate”. We put in quite a bit of time on that description, in part because people often ask “am I ready” and in part because it is the next step in doing a better job of qualifying candidates (and someday, in providing training to help those candidates prepare).

I hope you’ll understand that this “ideal” is a dream and a goal, but not a requirement. We’re never going to have perfect candidates, nor do I think we necessarily described the attributes that a perfect candidate might have, or even think a candidate that is less than our ideal may not serve exceedingly well. We just tried to write something that would help someone prepare to serve successfully and by success I mean both serving the members well and being able to look back on it as positive experience.

We simplified the application, not to reduce the time required (though it probably does take a little less), but to ask questions that mattered, either to the NomCom or the voters. Some are to guarantee a pre-requisite is met, but many are there to be “question generators” during the oral interviews and public interactions during the campaign. The application is one good way to compare candidates side by side. Is it perfect? Nope, but I think better than it was. Think about it as we vet candidates this year, what else can we reasonably ask them to provide that helps you make your decision?

We also left in, at least for this year, the somewhat ambiguous language around what Chapters can do to stump for (or not) candidates. That ambiguity is in my mind a mistake from the last time I served on the NomCom. I advocated for the change but not for the communication and discussion needed to make it work without confusion. We were reluctant to do too much change this year (and so repeat that mistake), but it’s an area that still needs much thought. It’s not simple, at least to me.


I think we’ve done good work, thoughtful work, but once again we’re doing that work behind a wall. The Board will review and approve our changes, but that’s far from having a public discussion before those changes are submitted. I have been and remain uncomfortable with the NomCom reviewing and revising rules, potentially each year. That’s not to attack anyone involved or question their ethics, I just don’t think its good governance to not have public discussion of changes. More than that, I fear, for lack of a better word, that future NomCom’s will not appreciate the subtleties or goals of some of the rules and will do wholesale rewrites. We need a system that allows change, that responds to issues, but doesn’t allow big changes without significant member input.

If you’re reading this I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read through the link at the top, then think about who you know that is ready, or close to ready, to run for the Board, and contact them. A bit of encouragement can go a long way.


Names From the Past

Can you guess what all of these people have in common?

  • Shawn Weisfeld
  • Joe Healy
  • Barry Ralston
  • Trey Johnson
  • Jon Winer
  • Wes Dumey
  • Donnie Reynolds
  • Kevin Jacobs
  • Joseph Memmo
  • Brian Knight
  • Michael Antonovich
  • Declan Link
  • Patrick Thompson
  • Jeff Garbus
  • Jim Blizzard
  • Ken Tucker
  • Jessica Moss
  • Bayer White
  • Joe Celko
  • Judy Pipia
  • Jean-Claud Armand
  • Michael Wells
  • Brandon Kelly
  • Pam Shawn
  • Chris Rock
  • David Eichner
  • Jose Fuentes
  • Kendal Van Dyke
  • Scott Farriss

Probably a few things, but for this post the correct answer is “they all submitted sessions for SQLSaturday #1”. Many (most) are still around, still technical, still participating in various ways. Hoping we can get a few (or more) to return to Orlando this fall for our 10th SQLSaturday.


SQLSaturday Orlando 2016 Call for Speakers Closes July 17, 2016

We’ve advanced the closing date for the SQLSaturday Orlando call for speakers to July 17. That’s to give us time to set the schedule and have it announced around August 1, just a little more than 60 days before the event. We’ll get an email with that information out to the Orlando speaker list later today.

We’ve had some great sessions submitted so far, still have plenty of room for more. Hope you’ll consider joining us in Orlando this year.


The PASS Speaker Agreement

I hope when you’ve read all of this post that you’ll think that I’ve added to the discussion and not fueled the fire.

The various posts and discussions and the time writing this (multiple drafts) have definitely caused me to re-examine my own views. I’ve found that some were simplistic (might still be!) and others just hadn’t been dusted off in a while because others things were needing more immediate attention. I’m betting the same is true for the Board. I also found some of the public discussion so far frustrating, in part because it feels like we’re stuck in 2007 where the only way to get PASS to move was to pound on them publicly. It feels like there should be a more elegant way – a topic for another day.

Tomorrow PASS is having a Town Hall to discuss the speaker contract. I agree that the contract needs to reviewed and revised, both legally and in terms of what we consider ok or not. Not withstanding the most recent changes to it, it has served as the rules of the road for a long time. As much as I’m in favor of reviewing, growing, evolving, and other words that equate to change, I hope everyone will look at the impact of proposed changes on the entire PASS ecosystem. It’s not just speakers who are affected, it’s sponsors, volunteers, attendees, and the full time staff. I hope we have the first of several good conversations tomorrow that start the process so that it can be considered, reviewed, and discussed over several weeks (or months even) so that we’re ready to apply the changes to the 2017 selection process. I also hope that whatever changes we make that we plan to review them again during and after the 2017 implementation to see what worked and what didn’t. I think it would be unrealistic to expect it all to work perfectly the first time.

I don’t know the scope of the meeting tomorrow, but I hope it covers these topics:

  • To what extent free, free with registration, paid, and whatever other categories of products/scripts/services can be mentioned in a presentation OR a pre-conference class
  • Whether speakers should be paid

I believe the PASS Board has tried to build an environment where attendees have access to sponsors and vice versa while keeping as much as possible any commercial element from being included in the educational portion of the program (other that Microsoft!). I’ve long agreed with that approach. Does it work perfectly? It does not. Drawing a hard line is simple and easy to enforce, and it avoids more of the conversations that result from why person x/session x was or was not picked. But I also agree that describing it in such a way that my friend Brent can’t talk about his free scripts isn’t serving the members well. Going further, I think about my friend Steve Jones doing a presentation on source control of databases. He can make it generic and non-product centric, which is interesting, but not nearly as useful as when he shows solving the problem using a full stack of specific (and paid) software. The lines are blurry, maybe always have been. I want sessions that are educational, that doesn’t preclude showing how a not-free product can solve them, but it’s somewhat hard to allow that and not allow a craftily crafted presentation that is more sales pitch than education. I think we can figure out how to make the system more nuanced and more valuable, but it will take some care.

I’ve never been a fan of paying speakers for the Summit. I’ve always liked the idea that all the effort that went into preparing and presenting an hour presentation to my peers helped raise funds that could be used to do good throughout our community. That’s why I was so unhappy with PASS in the 2006-2008 timeframe – funds were raised and not being used to do enough good. It’s better now. Not as good as I want, but tolerable. Beyond that, it’s been more than enough for me to be able to put a line in my resume about being selected to speak. Speakers get free admission to the Summit, something that has both real value to the speaker and a real cost to PASS. It costs PASS less than retail of course, but it’s far from zero cost. Still, traveling to the Summit is not a cheap endeavor. I doubt any speaker (including me, if and when I’m selected again) would turn down a stipend that would defray that cost. Is giving speakers a stipend fair? I’m hard pressed to argue it’s not, I just like the idea of doing my part to make things go. Idealistic? Simplistic? Perhaps. I also wonder what the impact is overall. Do we get better speakers and presentations? What does it do to the budget? I look forward to hearing many views on this topic.

PASS isn’t without fault in all of this. Changing the policy without public discussion first was a mistake. Responding slowly was a mistake. I’d even argue with the benefit of hindsight that it’s been slow to deal with the issues that have blown up this year that have been gathering steam for years, something that this Board inherited and perhaps didn’t fully appreciate. Whether you consider them mistakes or not, the result is that the issues are up for discussion tomorrow in an official and public forum. It might surprise you, but I think that the current Board is the most transparent and most responsive we’ve had so far and trying to improve further. I think change will come. It may not happen all at once, because the Board will be conservative (and that’s appropriate in most cases), but I think we’ll see a lot of change going into 2017.

MS Exams Increasing In Price

Just glanced through the MCP newsletter and see that the price of the exams (or at least the one I looked at) is increasing from $150 to $165. It’s hard not to question whether the exam is worth $165 (or even $150) – it just doesn’t have a lot of value in the market (which isn’t to say there is no value in taking an exam or two). I’d guess the fee is mostly paid by employers and the increase won’t add up to enough to cause them to complain.


The Road to SQLSaturday Orlando – 2016

This year I’ll blog sporadically on the event, focusing on pain points, discoveries, and new ideas with the occasional progress report.

  • Requesting the event # is much better than the last time I did it (years ago). More of a wizard, lets you set the exact location (though it’s a little quirky) and add multiple admins (as long as you know which email address the admins use for PASS related stuff). I wish it suggested the admins from the year before. Once submitted they send out the form to sign (Shawn McGehee is the signer this year) and then there is still a pause while the logo is built and the site provisioned. Not effortless, but better than it used to be – progress!
  • The site has been a little flaky. Several speakers reported errors when trying to load the submission page and we were cautioned to not publish the URL right after the site went live. Feels like a little work to be done there.
  • As much as we’re excited about hosting our 10th event, we’re mindful of not taking on too much. Karla & Rodney aren’t on the team this year (returned to Pensacola, but we’re looking forward to having them back on Oct 8th!). Kendal, Brad, and myself have all changed jobs recently and Gilda did so last year, Shawn has been super busy at work, and  Josh has torn up his knee. Gareth is the rock this year!
  • We expect to do a couple pre-cons this year, most likely hosted at Nova for more central location and more flexibility on lunch options (we can bring in whatever we want). We love bringing speakers to town for full day classes, but as we look at our track record of attendance we’re struggling to justify the work/risk against the return. We’re not going to make a change this year, but I think for next year we’re going to have to look at higher pricing, foregoing them, or moving them to a different time of year. The hard part is we we know how important it is to give speakers the chance to practice their craft on these day long classes so that they can try to move up to the Summit. Expect a change of some type on this next year.
  • The admin web site still shows the registration count by week on the graph. We don’t need that. We need to see trend this year compared to previous years, so we’ll still be relying on Kendal and some back flip powershell to give us the visibility we need.
  • The admin site emailer is improved some, but still…not enough. I don’t see a way to save a draft. You can email to one or more previous events, but it’s not clear to me if someone asked for ‘no further email’ if they are excluded no matter what, or if we will spam them.
  • I’ll be writing the marketing content this year, Kendal will review and tweak the layout as we go (using the template from last year). I’ll also be working to combine lessons learned from two years of the Student to IT Pro seminar into what I  hope will be a close to final formula. I’ll be working with Gilda on that and she will again manage the execution on game day
  • We went out our first email to only the reg list from last year on Friday (5/20), so far our reg count is 60.
  • When Gareth returns from his world tour we’re going to do a site visit and try to find room for more sponsors. Gareth is in charge of sponsors this year, I’ll be helping out on trying to get more of the local staffing companies to participate.

On a wider scale, one of the things we’re thinking about is what could we ask PASS for in terms of extra support for our 10th event, being mindful that it could set a precedent so it has to be sustainable. I’m thinking cash equivalent. A billboard or radio ad (to try something new), or maybe funds to pay costs for someone to present a free all day session to reward the community we serve. We’ll see.

Events I Wish PASS Organized

I was talking a bit with a friend at SQLSaturday Jacksonville and realized I needed to write down a thought or two. I love the PASS Summit – its the great gathering of our craft. But I also long for specialized events to supplement both the Summit and SQLSaturday. Imagine that a couple times a year PASS held smaller (say 100-300 attendees, give or take) that focused on a specific area – maybe one with a lot of interest, maybe one that is trying to take off. In a way it might be a SQLSaturday for a Virtual Chapter, but I think it would be more than that. Not quite SQL Rally either. Similar in size, but different price point and different objective. I’d go to one that was 400 level on architecture, or performance tuning, or availability. Not just for the 400 level content, but to learn from and share stories people that are actively working on that stuff at that level all the time. I think the session format would still work, and getting picked to speak at one of these would be something. It would be slower, more personal, deeper. Worthy of a close to premium price (think $400-$600 per day, same as Summit).

I’m writing all of that in a hurry (or it won’t get written at all), so it’s less than polished. My point here isn’t to complain about PASS, just to encourage what I always ask; do more. Serve the craft. Serve the members. I want PASS to be more than just events, but it’s good at events, so let’s do more. Stop and think about whether you’d go to the boss to ask for funding to attend a three done conference on some topic here that was limited to 300 attendees and had 400 level content.

It’s smaller risk, easier logistics, more choices of locations. Why aren’t we doing this?

Notes From SQLSaturday Jacksonville 2016

  • Everything ran smooth
  • The site reminds me of Orlando – limited space for sponsors, but offset by the other advantages (free venue, great parking, good rooms)
  • Lunch was 4 lines of real food and it looked like the max wait was in the 8 minute range (and less for many). Food was self-serve which works, but I’m still a fan of having a team of volunteers serve, the biggest reason is that it just makes it easier on the attendee.
  • Rooms had 6 sheets of paper taped to each door with session info. Each slightly overlaid a later session/sheet of paper. All they had to do was remove the top sheet. Simple and elegant.
  • I stopped by the room Brian had set up for kids to spend the day learning. 10 kids (capacity) and there were 10 more on the wait list. They were building paper bridges when I was there. Interesting note, each child had a name tag that included the phone number of their on site parent.
  • It was relaxing to be “just” an attendee. I found I preferred the auditorium type rooms because there was power at each seat. Learned a few things, a good day. On the long breaks I did some PC cleanup and finally have all my stuff running on Windows 10 (in VM’s hosted in Parallels on OSX).
  • Surprise of the trip was trying out Moxie, a restaurant near the event site. Interesting menu, you should go look. I had the bread pudding waffle and chicken (good), skipped the roasted pigs ears.