This past Friday, I had the great privilege of speaking at the on-line Group By conference. Group By is a community-driven conference where anyone can submit an abstract. Site visitors will then rate sessions as well as help you build and improve your abstract.
My presentation was about various tips and tricks in SQL Server Management Studio, some of which I’ve already covered in previous articles on this blog.
I frequently need to look up object definitions when I’m developing or query tuning. You could use Object Explorer in SSMS, but that takes a lot of time and clicking. Then there’s the Alt+F1 shortcut, which will trigger the sp_help stored procedure. That however, comes with a lot of annoying built-in limitations, so a few years ago I started building and maintaining a “better Alt+F1” of sorts.
I decided to call it “Ctrl+3“. But I suppose you could assign it to any keyboard shortcut you want.
If all you have is a hammer, everything will eventually start looking like a nail. This is generally known as Maslow’s hammer and refers to the fact that you use the tools you know to solve any problem, regardless if that’s what the problem actually needs. With that said, I frequently need a way to visualize the load distribution of scheduled jobs over a day or week, but I could never be bothered to set up a web server, learn a procedural programming language or build custom visualizations in PowerBI.
So here’s how to do that without leaving Management Studio.
I’m an outspoken advocate of always using a clustered index on each and every table you create as a matter of best practice. But even I will agree that there’s a case for using the odd heap now and then.
For practically every piece of code you develop, there will be trade-offs. Sometimes, you can combine the best of two worlds, other times it comes down to some hard choices. For T-SQL developers, it typically boils down to a few key questions:
- How much time can you spend perfecting code instead of just shipping?
- Can we just fix it when it becomes a problem?
- Is buying more hardware cheaper than paying for developers to tune their code?
- Is better code harder to read, and will a junior developer be able to work with it?
This is a real-world problem that I came across the other day. In a reporting scenario, I wanted to output a number of values in an easy, human-readable way for a report. But just making a long, comma-separated string of numbers doesn’t really make it very readable. This is particularly true when there are hundreds of values.
So here’s a powerful pattern to solve that task.
If you haven’t heard of Slack, it’s a wonderful team messaging platform. At first glance, it looks a bit like a private Twitter where you can set up “channels” to have conversations with colleagues. But the great thing with Slack is its flexible API and all the marvelous ways in which you can extend its functionality. You can send rich text messages with status updates from your production servers or you can interface with popular web services like Trello, right there in the chat window!
So as a way to kick start an effort at learning node.js and re-discover web development (which I haven’t really done in about 15 years now), I set out to build a Slack API. Here’s what I learned.
Do you ever compare the values of a lot of columns in two tables? Sure you do. Like, for instance, in a cross update, when you need to figure out which rows you should actually update. But it gets worse if the columns are nullable. The fact that any value could potentially be NULL vastly complicates the comparison and might wreak havoc not only on your code but also on your query performance.
But there’s hope.
If you’re a consultant connecting to remote client servers, or if you have a heterogenous network environment with different Active Directory forests without established trust relationships, you’ll have a few extra challenges connecting to SQL Server using Windows authentication, and SQL Server authentication may not be available.
In a sense, you could call me lazy. If there’s a script that will perform a task for me, I’d rather use that script than reinvent another wheel. Then again, if needs be, I’d rather spend a day writing such a script, rather than spending ten minutes just getting the job done.
Somehow, that makes me a happier developer.