More Thoughts on the Mac Air

I’ve been living with my Mac Air for a few weeks now, thought I’d share some quick thoughts:

  • I miss the backspace key/behavior. Air only has the delete key.
  • I miss the right click button.
  • And I miss the home/end keys.
  • Two finger scrolling is natural, I find myself trying to do it on the trackpad at work.
  • App store is so obviously a good idea its hard to understand why Windows hasn’t had something similar
  • Battery life seems good, though watching the debate caused the power meter to visibly tick down
  • I’m using Parallels to run Windows 7 and it works fine, and the hardware doesn’t seem to bog down at all (though I’m not doing much to tax it most of the time). Very very smooth.
  • While I’m reasonably a power user in Windows, I’m not in OSX, and not feeling the urge to become one. I just want my OS – whichever one I’m using – to just work. It’ll be interesting to see if decide to dig deeper on OSX.
  • I used the agent provided with Parallels to create the VM on an external SSD on my old laptop, took about 90 minutes to build it, about 30 minutes to load it on the Air (for about 60gbs).
  • Chrome works fine on OSX, as does LastPass (my current password vault)
  • I love the guest mode/login, has been a good way to let my kids use it without sharing passwords or creating accounts.
  • The hardware really seems solid, keyboard is fine,screen is good,I don’t even mind the glossy screen.

Mostly I’m logging into OSX and right into a full screen VM running Windows 7, making it a Windows machine with a funny keyboard layout. From a hardware perspective if I had a choice of the Air or an equivalent PC based one with a Windows keyboard I’d go with the latter, though of course so far the latter doesn’t seem to exist. For the OS the Mac OSX seems fine, I’m just vested in the Windows space and don’t see – so far at least – much of a reason to try to find equivalents for Mac. I like the idea that there might be better options in some cases for the Mac, so I’ve got to work at thinking about that once in a while so I can leverage having both.

So I’m still happy with it. Lightweight, good battery, power to spare. If you’re thinking about buying one I’d tell you the difference in the keyboard is the biggest change and it’s one of those changes that you may or may not find to be worth the effort to come to terms with.

PASS Election Results Posted

Congratulations to Wendy Pastrick, James Rowland-Jones, and Sri Sridharan on winning a two year term on the PASS Board of Directors. It was an amazingly close race, read the full results here.  The remaining two candidates, Allen Kinsel and Kendal Van Dyke, will be leaving the Board at the end of this year. I hope those of you reading this will take time to drop them a note thanking them for their efforts, they have made a difference.

I also want to send kudos to the PASS Board and PASS HQ for running an election that appeared to run smoothly and fairly. Good elections are the foundation of everything else!

Another Strange MS Access Gotcha

This past week I needed to retrieve a spreadsheet from a Sharepoint library, add a column to a sheet, and then populate that column based on some data I had in Access. Rather than import the data into Access to make the change and then export back (which could overwrite any formulas, lose comments, etc), my thought was to “link” the Excel file so I could treat it like a table, basically the same thing you can do with SQL Server tables. Linking worked easy enough, read the data just fine, but the linked sheet was not updateable. As far as I can tell it hasn’t worked in a while – feature, bug, who knows? It should work.

Plan B – with limited time and patience to invest – was to paste the keys into a new sheet, add the column to the original sheet,and then write a vlookup formula (the Excel version of an inner join,sort of) to show the ‘Yes’ I needed in the new column. Worked fine.

I don’t enjoy the quirks of software, but they do sometimes present opportunities to rethink the problem or the solution.

How Do We Get More People To Attend Free Events?

Look around your office, how many of your colleagues have attended any training in the past year? How many have been to a user group meeting, SQLSaturday, Code Camp, Give Camp, or IT Pro Camp? If that number is low, you’re not alone. Why is that?

Part of it there are a lot of people that have the cynical but functional strategy to learn what they need as they need it. That will only change by being around people like you, slowly, maybe.

Part of it is they haven’t heard about the event. That’s the marketing side, and we might try any of these ideas to work on that.

Part of it is they don’t believe that if it’s free that it can be valuable. If you think about it, that’s not dumb. Most “free” stuff isn’t really free, or isn’t very good,or is a loss leader to sell you something.

I was thinking about this recently because I had lightly mentioned to someone I see now and again about an upcoming free event here in Orlando. They missed it,and really I didn’t think much of it. Mentioning doesn’t equal a commitment or obligation. Still, I was surprised to see this guy at an event later in the year. I had a chance to ask him what he thought afterward and his comment, paraphrased, was “the content and the speakers were much better than I expected”.

Maybe I need to work on my pitch. No, I’m sure I do. But that’s not all of it, we’ve got to be more effective at delivering a realistic message about what someone can expect at our events.

MVP Status: Renewed

I was just answering an email and realized I’m behind on posting on a few topics, one of them the notification last week that I was renewed as a SQL Server MVP for another year. Always nice to be recognized, nice to have something for the resume, and of course the other SQL MVP’s make for stellar company.

Want to be an MVP? Brent Ozar wrote a nice post Congratulations, You’re an MVP! Here’s What You Need to Know that is worth reading if you’re interested in what you get as an MVP and a little bit about how to get there. I’ll add a couple things of my own:

  • There are about 270 SQL chairs on MVP island. To get on the island you have to do more than someone already there, some how. If that seems fuzzy, it is. There is no public formula, but you can look at the MVP’s and see there are a variety of paths you might take.
  • MVP status is, in my unofficial and not-MS-informed view, about influence, which is most often achieved by doing good in some way. Forum posts, blog posts,book writing,Twitter, etc, etc, are ways you can do good and build influence. Influence is hard to quantify, yet it’s not that hard to figure out who has it. Want to have influence? Focus! Be the voice about something, somewhere.

That last point is the one you should think on, and the hardest part of this. It’s not enough to do good, people have to know you do it – if you want to move to this level. If that feels a bit impure, maybe it is, but it’s no different than how things are at the office. If you want the promotion or next plum assignment, then you have to do/be good, but you also have to make sure your boss knows, and you have to figure out how to do that in a way that works for both of you.

Give Camp Orlando on Oct 26-28, 2012

My friend Richard Salogub is heading up this years Give Camp Orlando, an effort to link developers and IT professionals with non-profits that need some IT assistance – most often web sites and content management, but they try to help wherever they can. I won’t be a volunteer this year, but I will be dropping in during the weekend to see how things are progressing, looking for ideas that might help some place else and also looking at their operation to see if I have any suggestions for the next time.

It’s a reminder that small targeted efforts can have a big impact. Not just on the non-profits, but the volunteers too – what a great learning and networking opportunity!