Apr 092013

If you haven’t heard, someone important died today. Someone that changed the world. No, it wasn’t a real person. SQL Server 2000’s support lifecycle finally came to a whimpering end. Not a dignified, noble, heroic, or tragic end. More of a fizzling out.

Cast your mind back, if you can, to the turn of the century. 2000. A year of renewed hope, where everyone was thankful that the Y2K bug hadn’t wiped out life as we know it. Everyone in the SQL Server world was excited about a brand new release1. SQL Server 8 was going to be fantastic, but when it exploded out onto the scene in late 2000, it was SQL Server 2000, which is a lot more exciting that 8.0. Like, 1992 better than 8. Over the next 12-24 months, SQL Server 2000 was it. Everyone loved it. Microsoft were making fantastic strides in enterprise database software, and SQL Server was finally giving Oracle a bit more pressure. The new features in 2000 were such a leap from 7.0, and made managing databases much easier.

SQL Server 2000 rocked.

It had some cracks. How can anyone forget Slammer, a worm that triggered a buffer overflow exploit on the SQL Browser service? It was relatively benign, apart from the massive amount of network traffic it generated. In theory, it could have done anything once it had gotten into the Browser. For a decent layman’s2 view, have a look at the Wired article from July 2003.

A 64 bit version was released in 2003. Reporting Services was released in 2004. It just kept getting better and better. There were hiccups – Service Pack 4 suffered a disastrous memory bug, where only half the server memory could be used by AWE.

But then SQL Server 2005 came out, and it was fantastic in comparison. It took 12-24 months to start seeing a decline in SQL Server 2000 installations, but it happened. SQL Server 2008 came out, and people started sneering at SQL Server 2000. It was primitive, hard to work with, ugly. DTS was horrible compared to SSIS. Those that had sung its praises now sighed with resignation whenever they had to use Enterprise Manager, and I’m sorry to say that I have to count myself in that group of people. “Why haven’t you upgraded from 2000 yet? It’s 2010! Way past time!” And yet, SQL Server 2000 kept chugging along, doing what it had always done, as the number of installs dwindled and dwindled.

From a very high height, SQL Server 2000 has fallen, but it has not had an end like the greatest heroes of history. Let’s spend a minute today and remember how great this product was. If SQL Servers 2005, 2008, 2008 R2 and 2012 are so great, it’s because they stood on the shoulders of a giant.3

Rest in peace, old friend.



1 Artistic liberty, because I was working with other SQL implementations back then and not paying attention to SQL Server.

2 If laymen understand assembly…

3And of course, SQL Server 2000 stood on the shoulders of 7.0, and so forth, but that fact ruins the tone of the sentence.

Apr 092013

It’s a Tuesday, and that means there’s a decent chance that there’s a T-SQL Tuesday event on today. This month’s event is brought to us by Bob Pusateri (blog|twitter), on the topic of presenting.

Like most people in the world, I never liked presenting. Who really wants to stand up in front of an audience for 15+ minutes and have people watching you… Staring… Judging… Just wanting to tell you how wrong you are? Thankfully, audiences are rarely like that – you might have one person that’s being critical, but on the whole, I find people fall into one of the following categories:

  • Interested in what you’re saying, as you know more about the topic than they do
  • Disinterested, but can’t or don’t want to leave
  • Know as much as you, but are too polite to call you out on minor mistakes

While in university, I landed a job at a Darkzone laser tag centre. I went on to write software (primarily Delphi code) for the laser tag game, which is probably as close to being a game developer as I’ll ever get. One of the main tasks in working at Zone is to perform pre-game briefings to up to 60 people, although usually the audience would be around 15 people. After performing these briefings 10-15 times each week, you completely lose the fear of standing up in front of people and telling the briefing story one more time, and it certainly helps to reassure you that if you practice what you’re presenting enough, you can easily deliver to an audience. Even if you’re making it up off the top of your head, you are still comfortable enough to stand there. That skill came in handy a couple of months ago, where I had the pleasure of making a cultural gaffe in front of 400 non-English speakers.

I’m still relatively new to presenting technical ideas in groups greater than about 5 people, but have given a number of presentations, with more planned – hello SQL Saturday 186 in Auckland! That will allow me to make the claim of being an international speaker, but the reality is that I know I have a long way to go to improve my skills. Every time I present, I go through a phase about a week beforehand, where I think “Why did I sign up for this?” I could have stayed at home, relaxing, rather than volunteering to put myself through this scrutiny – completely forgetting that most people want you to succeed. Darkzone briefings are easy – you practice the 5-10 minute talk regularly, and with no great technical accuracy. A technical presentation, however, needs to be correct (as much as possible), and due to its length, you can’t rehearse hundreds of times. At the end of the presentation, however, I’ve come through unscathed, improved myself by researching a topic well, and have imparted some knowledge to other people.

I think that’s worth it, and it’s a great feeling when someone gives you positive feedback about how they were able to use the information they gave you, even 18 months later.

My biggest tip for presenting would be to respect the audience, and put in a ton of effort in developing and rehearsing. They’re giving you an hour of their time – make it worth it, and you’ll reap the rewards.