Conference hack: how to get great screenshots from demos

I take all my conference notes on my laptop, or occasionally on a tablet. Sometimes, I’ll want to take a screenshot of a powerpoint slide or a demo to add to my notes.

Here’s a trick to beautify those screenshots very easily:

The Microsoft Office Lens app (App store | Google Play) is an excellent document scanner, that you can also use to snap pictures of business cards, signs or basically anything rectangular with a little contrast around the edges – like a projector screen.

It’ll identify the framing and correct the image, so you can save it as a picture or a PDF, or beam it to another mobile device or computer.

Point it at the screen:

… and once you’ve taken the picture, it’ll beautify the image:

This is a killer app for conferences.

Make a Windows shortcut to compare files in Visual Studio

I like that there is a “Compare” function right out-of-the-box in Visual Studio, and even though many regular developers will choose to download a third-party application for the job, it’s perfectly fine for me.

Two problems: First off, I couldn’t find a straightforward way to open “compare” in the Visual Studio IDE without right-clicking an existing item in a source control repository. And second, wouldn’t it be cool if we could put a shortcut to it on the Windows “Send to” context menu?

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The SQL Server Calendar project

I’m the type of developer that invents wheels. Yes, every wheel I design is unique in its own way, and hand-crafted for a specific purpose. And so it has also been with calendar dimensions (typically when I do data warehousing work).

This got me thinking – why not design the mother of all calendar dimensions? One that includes every conceivable calendar and property that I and others could use and re-use. One that could save me a ton of coding, and lessen the burden of having to validate it each and every time?

And that’s how I got started designing my one calendar script to rule the all.

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Quick and dirty: How to right-align numeric columns in SSMS

Here are 50 random numbers:

--- 50 random numbers
WITH cte AS (
SELECT 0 AS i, 100000.*POWER(RAND(CHECKSUM(NEWID())), 3) AS n
UNION ALL
SELECT i+1, 100000.*POWER(RAND(CHECKSUM(NEWID())), 3)
FROM cte WHERE i<50)

SELECT *
FROM cte;

And in SSMS, with the variable-width default font, the output looks… slightly-less-than-readable in the grid view:

We could use STR() to format the output, but the indent looks a little off:

--- 50 random numbers
WITH cte AS (
SELECT 0 AS i, 100000.*POWER(RAND(CHECKSUM(NEWID())), 3) AS n
UNION ALL
SELECT i+1, 100000.*POWER(RAND(CHECKSUM(NEWID())), 3)
FROM cte WHERE i<50)

SELECT *, STR(n, 12, 2) AS with_str
FROM cte;

Here’s something I’ve found: the space character is roughly about half the width of a typical number character. So replace every leading space with two spaces, and it will look really neat in the grid:

--- 50 random numbers
WITH cte AS (
SELECT 0 AS i, 100000.*POWER(RAND(CHECKSUM(NEWID())), 3) AS n
UNION ALL
SELECT i+1, 100000.*POWER(RAND(CHECKSUM(NEWID())), 3)
FROM cte WHERE i<50)

SELECT *, STR(n, 12, 2) AS with_str,
       REPLACE(STR(n, 12, 2), ' ', '  ') AS with_replace
FROM cte;

(and terrible everywhere else, obviously.)

Grouping dates without blocking operators

It’s not entirely uncommon to want to group by a computed expression in an aggregation query. The trouble is, whenever you group by a computed expression, SQL Server considers the ordering of the data to be lost, and this will turn your buttery-smooth Stream Aggregate operation into a Hash Match (aggregate) or create a corrective Sort operation, both of which are blocking.

Is there anything we can do about this? Yes, sometimes, like when those computed expressions are YEAR() and MONTH(), there is. But you should probably get your nerd on for this one.

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Get the join cheat sheet!

Download and print this nifty little PDF with all of the INNER, LEFT, RIGHT, FULL and CROSS JOINs visualized! It’ll look great on your office wall or cubicle. Your coworkers and your interior decorator will love you for it.

How it works: For each join example, there are two tables, the left and the right table, shown as two columns. For the sake of simplicity, these tables are called “a” and “b” respectively in the code.

You’ll notice that the sheet uses a kind of pseudo-code when it comes to table names and column names.