After being dropped 35 feet from a helicopter and spending the next year recovering, Robert Sheldon left the Colorado Rockies and emergency rescue work to pursue safer and less painful interests—thus his entry into the world of technology. He is now a technical consultant and the author of numerous books, articles, and training material related to Microsoft Windows, various relational database management systems, and business intelligence design and implementation. He has also written news stories, feature articles, restaurant reviews, legal summaries, and the novels 'Last Stand' and 'Dancing the River Lightly'. You can find more information at http://www.rhsheldon.com.

20 September 2016

More Power BI to your Elbow

Power BI Desktop continues to evolve. There have been many improvements to the reporting side that together make it easier to get from the data to the visualisation as quickly as possible. You can now create line charts that let users drill down into hierarchical data. There are now ways of adding dynamic reference lines to a visualization that provide users with relevant reference points. Robert Sheldon demonstrates how to combine these features to great effect.… Read more
25 August 2016

SQL Server for Linux

Although SQL Server for Linux removes the concern that adopting SQL Server forces you to also adopt the Windows platform, it could also provide a useful alternative platform, and a more obvious alternative to Oracle. There are, however, several obvious concerns as to how such a product could ever achieve parity with the existing Windows-based product. Microsoft have made an interesting move with several ramifications, as Robert Sheldon explains.… Read more
02 August 2016

SQL Server Access Control: The Basics

No technology yet invented can in any way allow us to neglect the task of ensuring the security of the database by controlling access. Security must be applied in depth, and the database is designed provide a system that will thwart even the most determined external attack. If it seems a bit complicated at first, that is no longer an excuse now that Rob Sheldon has provided this simple guide for getting started. … Read more
22 July 2016

SQL Server Statistics Basics

Distribution statistics are used by SQL Server's Query Optimiser to determine a good execution plan for your SQL query. You don't need to know about them to execute queries, but the better you understand them, the better you can optimise your queries and sort out performance problems. Robert Sheldon once more provides a simple guide.… Read more
04 July 2016

Windows Containers and Docker

Windows Server 2016 features support for containers. These are not Linux-based, but containers that run on Windows and run Windows on the inside. These conform to the Open Container Initiative (OCI). They allow you to run applications insulated from the rest of the system, within portable containers that include everything an application needs to be fully functional. As they did with Linux, containers will change the nature of the software supply chain for Windows users.… Read more
20 June 2016

SSIS in SSDT: The Basics

SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) is a fast and reliable way of importing and exporting data, but it can be tricky to learn, initially. Rob Sheldon provides a beginner's guide to get you started with using SSIS with Visual Studio and SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT)… Read more
06 May 2016

Taking Azure SQL Data Warehouse for a Test-Drive

Azure SQL Data Warehouse uses SQL to query the data, but there are some differences to SQL Server's dialect of TSQL, and queries don't necessarily work in the same way. DBAs are also required to use SSDT to access Azure SQL Data Warehouse. It is worth taking the time to try the preview of the product, and take it for a 'spin around the block', following Robert Sheldon's walk-through.… Read more
05 May 2016

Connecting to SQL Data Warehouse

The most frustrating thing with any new system is often just working out how to connect to it. Oddly, you can't use SSMS with SQL Data Warehouse, but it is fine with SSDT, SSIS, Power BI desktop, sqlcmd, BCP, and a range of Microsoft cloud services - there are PowerShell Cmdlets too. Rob Sheldon provides the details.… Read more
09 March 2016

SQL Server Metadata Functions: The Basics

To be able to make full use of the system catalog to find out more about a database, you need to be familiar with the metadata functions. They save a great deal of time and typing when querying the metadata. Once you get the hang of these functions, the system catalog suddenly seems simple to use, as Robert Sheldon demonstrates in this article.… Read more
25 February 2016

In Search of the Cortana Analytics Suite

Cortana Analytics Suite is important and significant, but it is difficult to work out why or how from the existing 'information'. After more setbacks than Dr Livingstone, Bob Sheldon emerged from the jungle of marketing hyperbole triumphantly with a small diagram which explained it. Here he reveals the individual components, and finds them, in combination, to be a curiously interesting attempt to bring Big Data under contro… Read more
24 February 2016

Azure SQL Data Warehouse

Azure SQL Data Warehouse is a fully-managed and scalable cloud service. It is still in preview, but solid. Not only is it compatible with several other Azure offerings, such as Machine Learning and Data Factory, but also with various existing SQL Server tools and Microsoft products. It talks Power BI. Are we now seeing the final piece of the Azure jigsaw fall into place?… Read more
08 February 2016

Five Online Database Modelling Services

To design, or redesign, a database of any complexity, the Entity-Relationship modelling tool becomes essential. The specialized tools that have dominated the industry for a long while are expensive and are installed on a workstation. Now that browser technology has progressed so rapidly, the online database modelling tools have become viable and are starting to attract the attention of database designers. Are they good enough to use now? Robert Sheldon finds out.… Read more
27 January 2016

SQL Server System Views: The Basics

When maintaining or refactoring an unfamiliar database, you'll need a fast way to uncover all sorts of facts about the database, its tables, columns keys and indexes. SQL Server's plethora of system catalog views, INFORMATION_SCHEMA views, and dynamic management views contain all the metadata you need, but it isn't always obvious which views are best to use for which sort of information. Many of us could do with a simple explanation, and who better to provide one than Rob Sheldon?… Read more
22 December 2015

Microsoft Azure DocumentDB

DocumentDB is a late-entrant in the Document-oriented database field. However, it benefits from being designed from the start as a cloud service with a SQL-like language. It is intended for mobile and web applications. Its JSON document-notation is compatible with the integrated JavaScript language that drives its multi-document transaction processing via stored procedures, triggers and UDFs.… Read more
15 December 2015

JSON support in SQL Server 2016

At last, SQL Server has caught up with other RDBMSs by providing a useful measure of JSON-support. It is a useful start, even though it is nothing like as comprehensive as the existing XML support. For many applications, what is provided will be sufficient. Robert Sheldon describes what is there and what isn't.… Read more
20 November 2015

Azure Data Lakes

The Data Lake is basically a large repository of data for 'big data' analytic workloads, held in its original format. The Azure Data Lake adds Data Lake Analytics, and Azure HDInsight. Although the tools are there for Big Data Analysis, it will require new skills to use, and a heightened attention to Data Governance if it is to appeal to the average enterprise.… Read more

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