TSQL2sDay – Get-PostRoundup

First an apology, this round up is late!

The reason for that is an error in the PowerShell testing module Pester (That’s not completely true as you shall see!!)

I spoke in Stuttgart at the PowerShell Saturday last weekend and had intended to write this blog post whilst travelling, unfortunately I found a major error in Pester (again not strictly true but it makes a good story!!)

I explained it with this slide in my presentation

Yep, I forgot to pack my NUC with my VMs on it and had to re-write all my demos!!

But anyway, on to the TSQL2sDay posts

What a response. You wonderful people. I salute you with a Rimmer salute

There are 34 TSQL2sDay posts about dbatools, about starting with PowerShell, If you should learn PowerShell, SSAS, SSRS, Log Shipping, backups, restores, Pester, Default settings, best practices, migrations, Warnings in Agent Jobs, sqlpackage, VLFs, CMS, Disabling Named Pipes, Orphaned users, AG Status, AG Agent Jobs, logging, classes, auditing, copying files, ETL and more.

I am really pleased to see so many first timers to the TSQL2sDay blog monthly blog party. Please don’t let this be your only TSQL2sDay post. Come back next month and write a post on that topic.

Here they are below in the media of tweets, so that you can also go and follow these wonderful people who are so willing to share their knowledge. Say thank you to them, ask them questions, interact.

Learn, Share, Network

Volker wrote about testing best practices with dbatools

Dave explains why PowerShell is so useful to him in his ETL processes

Steve writes about the time he has saved using PowerShell to automate restores and audit SQL Server instances

Nate talks about copying large files like SQL Server backups using BITS with PowerShell

Warren talks about his experience as a beginner, the amount of things he automates and his DBReboot module

THANK YOU every single one and apologies if I have missed anyone!

 

 

#TSQL2sDay – Starting Out with PowerShell

tsql2sdayThis months TSQL2sday is hosted by me!

Surprise! – I chose PowerShell

I am really looking forward to seeing what other people post. Some advanced scripts that will help you and show you how you can use PowerShell to save you time and hopefully some beginner posts explaining experiences or showing you how to start with PowerShell and SQL Server. I decided to go with the latter.

First though a warning.

PowerShell is another language, you are not going to be as proficient in a new language as you are in the language you spend all day working with. You will have to go through the learning curve and you will have to understand how to interpret errors. There is a learning curve just like with any language. Undoubtedly you will get frustrated at times. Reach out for help. Use twitter, use the #powershellhelp in the SQL Server Community Slack channel. There are many other places and plenty of people who will be glad to help you.

Open the Editor

If you are using a Windows machine you will have PowerShell installed. You will find it in your start menu on Windows 7 under All Programs, Accessories, Windows PowerShell folder, and then click Windows PowerShell or Windows PowerShell ISE. On Windows 8 or 10 search for PowerShell.

PowerShell or PowerShell ISE? Use PowerShell instead of cmd.exe for command line usage and ISE for developing scripts, functions and modules. (However, read on before making your choice)

PowerShell on Other O/S’s (and Windows!)

Just as SQL Server is available on Linux PowerShell is also available cross-platform, you can run and edit PowerShell on Linux and on Mac natively. The best editor to use is VS Code which is also available cross-platform. In fact, as Microsofts David Wilson says in this blog post

The PowerShell ISE has been the official editor for PowerShell throughout most of the history of Windows PowerShell. Now with the advent of the cross-platform PowerShell Core, we need a new official editor that’s available across all supported OS platforms and versions. Visual Studio Code is now that editor and the majority of our effort will be focused there.

So my advice is, whichever operating system you are using, use VS Code to write, edit, debug and run your PowerShell as that is the editor where Microsoft are spending the majority of their effort in development. Follow the instructions here to install You can also use it with many other languages including T-SQL. I find it a very useful tool

Where to start?

Well that depends what you want to do. Start by reading. Start by trying to accomplish something in PowerShell even if you know how to do it another way. This will also help you to realise when you are trying to use a hammer to put in a screw (using the wrong tool for the job)

What Command?

You don’t know where to start so how do you know the command to use? Here is a first command. You will use it often. I use it everyday still despite using PowerShell daily for many years. But don’t run it yet!

PowerShell is quite intuitive in it’s command naming. It uses a Verb-Noun syntax. You know without me explaining what this command will do. It will “Get” the “Command” (s). PowerShell uses singular nouns for its commands. I have 8000+ commands on my machine so it would have overloaded you with commands if you had run it without filters!

We use * as a wildcard in PowerShell so we can use that with our Get-Command command to find some commands to run. Type Get-Com and then hit the tab button. This will not only help you as it will auto-complete, it will reduce the number of errors as it will only auto-complete correct command names :-).

This will show all commands which end with service. The results will have some different headings. The screenshot below shows just one command to reduce confusion.

03 - get-service.png

The type of command, the name of the command, the version of the command and the module it is in. PowerShell uses modules to group commands together and to enable you to install the ones that you require from a repository like the PowerShell Gallery (more on this later).

You can find all of the commands in a module with the Get-Command command like this

This will show you all of the commands in the management module which may be a good place to start exploring. In this module for example

  • Test-Connection is like ping but better
  • Test-Path tests the existence of files and file paths
  • *-Service works with services
  • *-Process works with processes
  • *-Computer for power options for a computer
  • Get-ComputerInfo which will give you computer information (surprisingly 🙂 )

This is also something to remember in the future when you want to know what commands a module has or what the precise name of the command is.

Maybe once you install the dbatools module, the sqlserver module or the SSRS module??

HOMEWORK – Examine the names of commands in other modules that you find in

or for more choices

How do I use that command though?

You need to read! PowerShell comes with a lot of documentation, a lot of it is available on your machine. Lets introduce another command

As you can imagine, this gets the help for a command or returns help topics about PowerShell. Again, I use this every single day and you should too. Lets start with the first one. Lets get help for the Get-ChildItem command

Now, some of you may not get very much returned and a message at the bottom which says

Get-Help cannot find the Help files for this cmdlet on this computer. It is displaying only partial help.
— To download and install Help files for the module that includes this cmdlet, use Update-Help.
— To view the Help topic for this cmdlet online, type: “Get-Help Get-ChildItem -Online” or
go to https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=113308.

When you have something else to do I would recommend running Update-Help as it suggests (It can take a few minutes to run) but for now make use of the -Online switch.

HOMEWORK – Run Update-Help

This is available for all of the Microsoft modules and some of the better open source modules, dbatools is an example of a (brilliant) community module which has -Online URLs for it’s commands. Running Get-Help (with or without the -Online switch) will give you plenty of information about the command, the switches available, the inputs and outputs.

Maybe start by using the -examples switch

will show you some examples of how to use the command

05 gethelp examples

Now you can start to explore the file system with this command (also the SQL Server, Registry, Certificate Store and many more things)

I also like to use the ShowWindow switch

which will open up the help in a separate window which can be useful when you are writing a script and it is searchable

04 - gethelp showwindo

But Chrissy prefers to use the -Detailed switch

You can decide which way you like best.

Now you know how to find a command and hot to find out how to use it. If you are using VS Code (or ISE) you have access to Intellisense and snippets to help you with the syntax. You can run a command and get some results.

HOMEWORK – Use Get-Help to understand how to use commands. ( Extra merit marks for teachers pets who read the topics they find using Get-Help About_*) Also, instant demerit points throughout the course (your career) for students who do not use Get-Help when using any command for the first time.

Hopefully you are confident enough to have run some commands. If you are worried about breaking things only run the commands which start with Get- as these should only be returning information or objects and not changing anything.

This isn’t cmd 

This isn’t cmd. What you are getting back is not text.

It is an object.

Unless you choose to use one of the formatting commands or the command you are using outputs using a formatting command (pro-tip don’t do that) then what you will receive as the results of your command is an object.

This means that there is more that you can do with the results than just have them in text format. You want Text File,JSON, XML, CSV, Excel output or to write to a database? Look here for ideas

Objects,Objects,Objects

Objects are awesome. Lets start with a SQL Server Instance object to show you how to explore objects. You will need to install the most useful PowerShell module you will find if you are working with SQL Server – dbatools

Disclosure – I am a contributor to the open source module dbatools. I am presenting a full day workshop in Singapore for the PowerShell Conference Asia in October. I am also proctoring at Chrissy and CK’s PASS Summit in Seattle. I highly recommend that you come and join us at one of those events if you can to further learn how you can use PowerShell to administer SQL Server

You can install it from the PowerShell Gallery using

You will be asked if you want to trust the repository, say Yes. If this doesn’t work on your machine (you are on an older version of PowerShell) follow the instructions on this page.  Or ask for help in #powershellhelp in Slack

Now that the module is installed we can create a SQL Server Instance object by assigning the results of a command to a variable.

A variable in PowerShell is designated by a $.

I suggest that you get used to following this step as well. This is a great way of exploring the results of any command and understanding what you can do with it.

We will use the Get-Member command. Another one that I use every single day.

Warning – You do not have to use these methods to accomplish tasks in PowerShell against SQL Server as both Microsoft and the community have released modules which will enable you to general tasks without “coding”

This is an example to get you comfortable with PowerShell by using a target that you are comfortable with and can recognise.

Now that we have an object we can explore it

By just calling the variable it will display the default properties

06 - default properties.png

If you want to see what else is available you can use Get-Member You just pipe | to Get-Member

This will show you all of the events, methods and properties available on the object.  Methods are really useful, enabling you to do things like start agent jobs or enumerate permissions or members

If you wish to see all of the processes that are running on the instance

Out-GridView is a useful command allowing you to see the results of your command in a graphical format and easily filter using the search bar at the top.

07 - ogv.png

Other things you can do include reading the errorlog

08 - errorlog.png

Get the connections to a database

Get the current Traceflags

The properties that are available at this level are similar to the view that you see in SSMS Object Explorer for the instance. You can see a databases folder in SSMS and you can expand it. You can do the same in PowerShell

That is going to just show you the names of the databases on that instance. You can do the same thing using the pipe | again and Select-Object

This will pass the Databases array of objects “along the pipeline” and then you can use Select-Object to choose them. Multiple properties can be chosen with commas.

09 - databases.png

PowerShell will let you select things that do not exist so for example

does not return an error but some of the columns are empty 🙂 You need to use the names of the properties returned from Get-Member in your Select statement (Hmm, sounds a bit like T-SQL)

18 select.png

You can look at a single database default properties using

You can then use Get-Member to explore deeper and deeper.

You can also look at the Agent from the instance level object

HOMEWORK – Using the code above explore the $SMO object, look at the databases, tables, the columns and the indexes. Explore other properties and select them. (Extra merit points for exploring the SQL Server like a file system using the SQLServer drive. Start with cd SQLSERVER:\ and use Get-ChildItem or its alias dir or ls)

Warning Reminder – You do not have to use these methods to accomplish tasks in PowerShell against SQL Server as both Microsoft and the community have released modules which will enable you to do general tasks without “coding”

But this is a very useful way of understanding and exploring using PowerShell with a type of object that you understand. You will use these methods all of the time and when you need to accomplish the next thing you have the tools. Already. Now.

Recap

You should take from this for the future

  • Get-Command *search* – Find a Command
  • Get-Help NameOfCommand – How do I use the Command ?
  • $var = Some Command here – Set the output of a command to a variable
  • $var | Get-Member – What Events, Methods, Properties do I have on this object
  • $var | Select Property1, Property2, Property3

That’s All Code – Where’s The Easy Buttons ?

There are two answers to this.

Firstly, yes it’s all code, but you will find that code is the future. Every time you run the same piece of code it will do the same thing, every time a junior DBA follows the steps to manually do something in a GUI like SSMS they may make a mistake and a different mistake each time. As DBAs we use stored procedures, views, functions and more, they are all code. Using code is vital for automation, for making things easy, for reducing the risk of mistakes, for getting rid of the mundane.

It is also required for DevopsAgileScrumContinuousIntegrationDeliveryWhatsTheNextBuzzWord which is all the rage (and also a lot of fun with interesting challenges)

As estates get bigger and bigger the GUI becomes less useful to you.

Secondly, remember my warning at the top of this post? There is no easy button. You will have to learn new things you will make mistakes and get errors, you need to ask for help

I Have An ERROR !

Don’t be disheartened, errors happen. The red text looks scary and frightening but its not.

Read the Error

Lets use Microsofts sqlserver module. There are all sorts of ways to get it. If you have SSMS you probably have it already. Lets check

A result like this means that you have it

10 - get-module.png

If not

Again you will be asked if you want to trust the repository, say yes!

If I run

I get

11 - error.png

That error is fairly easy to understand. I can’t connect to an instance that isn’t running

If I run

I get a different error

12 sql login error.png

The Get-SqlLogin from Microsofts sqlserver module returns an error if it cannot find the specified login name. The important part of this error message is ObjectNotFound. That tells us what has happened

If we look at the logins

13 - Logins.png

and choose one that exists everything is good

14 one login.png

HOMEWORK – Here is another object to explore with Get-Member. Explore the Login object

For example

15 - login script.png

But back to errors. Sometimes it isn’t quite so obvious. I have altered my Create-Database function so that it shows an error instead of a helpful message.

16 - db error.png

This is an example of the sort of error message that you might not be able to decipher so easily. Even if you read the message it says Exception calling .ctor with 2 arguments. How can you, as a new PowerShell user work out what has happened?

Objects

Remember, PowerShell is great because of objects? The errors are objects too. Lets have a look at the error in full. This is another piece of code that I still use every single day

The $error variable holds an array of error objects for that session. The [0] targets the 1st object in the array which is the latest. We pipe that to fl which is an alias for Format-List. Normally I am very clear about not using aliases in my blog posts as I believe that you should not use aliases in your scripts and functions (This is due to a bad experience trying to google for % to find out what it was in PowerShell many years ago). However, you are only going to use this at the command line so its ok.

The results are

17 error.png

Once you read the error, you will see that there is a generic connection failed error message which you will be used to seeing and now you can go about fixing it.

Errors aren’t scary. You just have to read them. Sometimes you have to expand them to read them. Once you have read them don’t forget that there is also a lot of help out there on the internet. I recommend the #powershellhelp channel in the slack but with the full error message you will be able to get some useful results from whatever your choice of helpful solutions is.

That’s exactly 3000 words – which is slightly (!) more than I intended to write and a lot to read, so if you have got all the way down here. Congratulations, when you see me at Summit or at a SQL Saturday come up and tell me and I will give you a special sticker 🙂

Hopefully this has given you some guidance to starting to use PowerShell with SQL and how you can help yourself.

Good luck.

TSQL2sday #94 Lets get all Posh!

 

Welcome to T-SQL Tuesday for September 2017!

tsql2sdayT-SQL Tuesday is a chance for you to join in the SQL Server community and write a blog post on a suggested topic. It makes for a great way to find a bunch of blog posts showing the same subject from many different viewpoints. Please join in and write a blog post, maybe it’s your first ever, maybe you haven’t blogged for a while but even if you blog every day come and join the party and share your knowledge.

To participate:

  1. Write a post on the topic below
  2. Schedule the post to go live on Tuesday, September 12th (between zero am and midnight, UTC)
  3. Include the TSQL Tuesday logo in the top of your post
  4. Link the post back to this one (it’s easier if you comment on this post and link it)
  5. Optional: Tweet a link to your post using the #tsql2sday hash tag on Twitter

Extra credit: if you’d like to host your own TSQL Tuesday in the future, read the full rules for info on how to sign up. Just like I did but don’t forget its your month!!

This month’s topic: Let’s get all Posh – What are you going to automate today?

PowerShellIt is no surprise to those that know me that I will choose PowerShell as the topic for this month. I am passionate about PowerShell because it has enabled me to have the career I have today and to visit numerous countries all around the world, meet people and talk about PowerShell. By my reckoning searching the TSQL Tuesday website it has been over 3 years since we had a topic specific to PowerShell. So I would like you to blog about PowerShell and SQL Server (or other interesting data platform products)

If you don’t know or use PowerShell GREAT! That’s awesome.

Please spend an hour or so with it and tell us how you got on and what and how you learned. Just like Erik and Brent did. You could install one of the community modules like dbatools, dbareports , SQLDiagAPI  or the Microsoft ones sqlserver or SSRS and try them out and tell us what you learned.

If you want help whilst doing this please make use of the #powershellhelp channel in the SQL Server Community Slack

This will be of so much benefit to all people who don’t use PowerShell and want to start to learn about it.

If you do use PowerShell and SQL then either tell the tale of the best thing you have automated or a beginners post to show people how to start using PowerShell. I have heard many stories and am looking forward to tales of

  • testing backups
  • doing migrations
  • resetting log shipping
  • creating things in the cloud and on premises
  • SQL on Linux with PowerShell on Linux
  • using Pester for testing
  • automating manual tasks
  • automating incident knowledge gathering
  • continuous integration and delivery

and many more. I will read all of them and do a write up of them later next week.

 

keep calm and powershell.jpg

I Hate Interviews – TSQL2sDay

tsql2sday

This month’s T-SQL Tuesday is hosted by Kendra Little and is on the topic of interviews 

I hate interviews as an interviewee. I have had many memorable experiences with them. Even writing this blog post has been challenging as I relive some of them. I haven’t shared a lot of the worst ones!

When I was a lad

My first interview was for a waiter/washer up at a local country pub aged 15 or so. I stumbled and stammered and stuttered my way through and I think it was only because they needed someone that evening that I got the job.

When I was 17 I wanted a car and whilst doing my A-Levels I got a job at a local private school to achieve this. It was about a 10 minute cycle from my college to the school and I was so nervous that about half-way I was incapable of riding my bike and had to walk. I then was faced with two people interviewing me which I was not expecting or prepared for. I remember nothing of the interview other than leaving it soaking in sweat.

Nerves

As a young man I interviewed for numerous jobs and things got progressively worse for me. I would get so incredibly nervous. I could not sleep or eat before an interview. This meant I often was feeling very nauseous and tired during an interview. I would arrive incredibly early and have to waste time wandering around, giving me more time to think about how nervous I was and, of course, making it worse. Obviously I wouldn’t give a good impression and didn’t get the jobs which meant more interviews and more nerves.

I tried many things, I sought advice and information from many sources and approached the situation in a number of different ways without much change to my internal responses.

Preparation, Practice, Knowledge and Distraction

To this day I hate interviews even after 20 years of having to do them. I can still get so overcome by nerves that I forget even the simplest and most obvious things such as what the N in DNS stands for or what the question is that I should be answering.

To minimise this, I try my best to prepare as well as I possibly can. I learn and revise the things I think I will need to show that I know by reading the job descriptions and adverts carefully.

I also split the whole process into separate boxes. Revising and researching a company and a job was one part. Getting ready and travelling and arriving was another and the actual interview was then just the last part consisting of talking to some people. This definitely reduced the overall stress and improved my performance in interviews.

A previous shop provided interviewer training and needed volunteers to be interviewed for those courses. I volunteered as often as I was able to and treated them as realistically as was feasible. This helped me a lot and also enabled me (sometimes) to view an interview as just a chat. If you suffer with nerves and this is available I would recommend doing so. If not, ask someone who interviews for some practice interviews and treat them as realistically as you feel is necessary.

A wise person told me to remember that interviewers are people too and also that good interviewers will recognise nerves and assist the interviewee. After all, they are trying to find the right person to fulfil their needs and want to know if you meet their requirements for that position.

Another wise person told me, during an interview, that it was ok to ask for clarification about a question. A decade or more of interviews before I knew that. It enables me to pull back from a spiral of nerves making me gabble and to be able to return to the question required. When I find that I am rambling in my answer or that the answer has disappeared from my mind I ask the interviewer for clarification and get some much needed breathing space.

To reduce the impact of nervousness before the interview I learnt to distract myself in the couple of hours prior to an interview. I have been known to go and see a film if a cinema is close to the interview or do the weekly shopping. Anything that can occupy my mind without risking me being late. This may be of no use to many people but it works for me.

The other side of the table

As an interviewer, I hope that I recognise when people are nervous and am able to assist them and also coax out the information that I need to be able to make the best decision about the candidate for the position.

Interviewing is tiring.

When I worked in secure units we would sometimes spend 2 continuous days interviewing. It is hard work. You need to look after yourself in these situations. It is important to drink plenty of water, to ensure that you eat and at least get up and stretch in between interviews. The very last person you interview might be the perfect candidate don’t miss that because you have switched off.

You are being interviewed too

The person that you are interviewing is also interviewing you. They are considering if they want to come and work for your company with the people they meet. That might only be the people in the interview so it is important I think to ensure that you make a good impression as well. During a day of interviewing many candidates try to reset before each person.

Being courteous, attentive and professional is important during the interview even if the interviewers recognise that the person is not suitable for that role within 2 minutes. They may be ideal for another position or you may come across them later in your career. Leave a good impression.

Preparation

A shop I worked at employed a new DBA who had impressed the manager in interview with their knowledge as they had passed a lot of exams. The manager was very pleased and looking forward to the new arrival. This changed quite quickly when it became obvious that the new DBA was missing some basic knowledge about installing SQL Server and creating new databases which was a significant part of their role. A lot of time was wasted by the other DBAs in the team re-doing and re-checking the work that this person had done and team dynamics went downhill very quickly (although I did learn a lot about Policy Based Management from this experience!)

When I was working in secure units focusing on people with Autism we knew that communication skills both verbal and none-verbal were vital to all members of our team. We had an excellent set of questions and scenarios early in the interview to establish peoples capabilities in these areas and this allowed us to close off interviews early when we could see that the candidate did not meet our requirements as well as ensuring we employed people with the right skills for a very challenging workplace.

Before the interviews for a replacement DBA the manager asked how to avoid a repeat of that situation. I described the situation above and as a team we identified the basic skills, knowledge and approaches that we wanted in our future team members and designed a set of questions and scenarios so that candidates could demonstrate them. This was excellent for ensuring the entire team felt that they had some input into the recruiting process and also added confidence in the new team member. I think it was an excellent piece of team management as well.

The biggest take away from this post, I hope, is preparation. For both sides of the table preparation is a vital part of any interview process. Also if you see me all dressed up and in the queue for a film I am probably very nervous and won’t want to chat!!

Make sure that you go and visit the round-up post that Kendra posts on her blog to read further posts on the interviewing process from others in the SQL Community. You can also find all the archives at http://tsqltuesday.com/

 

 

 

Any resemblance to any living people in this post apart from myself is complete co-incidence

 

 

 

 

Enterprise Strategies – A #TSQL2sDay post

This months TSQL2sDay blog post party is hosted by Jen McCown and is about Enterprise Strategy.

Adam Mechanic started TSQL Tuesdays over 5 years ago and you will find many brilliant posts under that heading if you search for them

Managing SQL servers at enterprise scale is not a straightforward task. Your aim as a DBA should be to simplify it as much as possible and to automate everything that you possibly can. This post by John Sansom could have been written for this months party and I recommend that you read it.

So here are a few points that I think you should consider if you look after SQL in an Enterprise environment.

  • Enterprise Strategy will undoubtedly garner a whole host of excellent posts and Jen will provide a round up post which will I am certain will be an excellent resource. Take a look here
  • Know where your instances are and have a single place that you can reference them from. Some people recommend a Central Management Server but I find this too restrictive for my needs. I use an InstanceList table in my DBA Database with the following columns [ServerName], [InstanceName] , [Port] , [AG] , [Inactive] , [Environment] and [Location]. This enables me to target instances not just by name but by environment (Dev, Test, Pre-Prod, Live etc), by location or by joining the InstanceList table with another table I can target by the application or any number of other factors. I also capture information about the servers at windows and SQL level to this database so I can target the SQL 2012 servers specifically if need be or any other metric. This is very powerful and enables far greater flexibility than the CMS in my opinion.
  • Use PowerShell (no surprise I would mention this!) PowerShell is a brilliant tool for automation and I use it all of the time
  • Get used to using this piece of Powershell code
	 $Query = @"
	 SELECT [ServerName],[InstanceName],[Port]
	  FROM [DBADatabase].[dbo].[InstanceList]
	  Where Inactive = 0 AND NotContactable = 0
	"@
	try{
	$AlltheServers= Invoke-Sqlcmd -ServerInstance $CentralDBAServer -Database $CentralDatabaseName -Query $query
	$ServerNames = $AlltheServers| Select ServerName,InstanceName,Port
	}
	foreach ($ServerName in $ServerNames)
	{
	## $ServerName
	 $InstanceName =  $ServerName|Select InstanceName -ExpandProperty InstanceName
	 $Port = $ServerName| Select Port -ExpandProperty Port
	$ServerName = $ServerName|Select ServerName -ExpandProperty ServerName 
	 $Connection = $ServerName + '\' + $InstanceName + ',' + $Port
	
	 try
	 {
	 $srv = New-Object ('Microsoft.SqlServer.Management.Smo.Server') $Connection

Notice the query variable above, this is where the power lies as it enables you to gather all the instances that you need for your task as described in the bullet post above. Once you get used to doing this you can do things like this identify all the instances with Remote DAC disabled using a query against the DBA Database and then enable it on all servers by adding this code to the loop above

$srv.RemoteDacEnabled = $true
$srv.alter()

Very quick very simple and very very powerful. You can also use this to run TSQL scripts against the instances you target but there are some added complications with Invoke-SQLCmd that you need to be aware of

  • BE CAREFUL. Test and understand and test before you run any script on a live system especially using a script like this which enables you to target ALL of your servers. You must definitely check that your $ServerNames array contains only the instances you need before you make any changes. You need to be ultra-cautious when it is possible to do great damage
  • Write scripts that are robust and handle errors gracefully. I use Jason Wasser @wasserja Write-Log function to write to a text file and wrap my commands in a try catch block.
  • Include comments in your scripts to assist either the future you or the folks in your position in 5 years time. I would also add one of my bug bears – Use the description block in Agent Jobs. The first place any DBA is going to go to when that job fails is to open the properties of the job. Please fill in that block so that anyone troubleshooting knows some information about what the job does or at the very least a link to some documentation about it
  • Finally in my list, don’t overdo the alerts. Alerting is vital for any DBA it is a brilliant way to ensure that you quickly know about any issues affecting your estate but all alerts should be actionable and in some cases you can automate the action that you can take but the message here is don’t send messages to the DBA team email for every single tiny thing or they will get swamped and ignore the vital one. This holds for whichever alerting or monitoring system that you use

This is but a small sub-section of things that you need to consider when responsible for a large SQL estate but if you need help and advice or just moral support and you don’t already interact with the SQL community then make today the day you start. Maybe this post by Thomas La Rock is a good place to start or your nearest User Group/Chapter or the #sqlfamily hashtag or give me a shout and I will gladly help.

Giving Back – #TSQL2sday

T-SQL Tuesday, which was started by Adam Machanic (blog|twitter) and is now starting its 6th year, is hosted by a different person each month. The host selects the theme, and then the blogging begins. Worldwide, on the second Tuesday of the month (all day, based on GMT time), bloggers attend this party by blogging about the theme. This month it is hosted by Wayne Sheffield blog|twitter and in the spirit of the holiday season it is about giving. This is my post on giving back, in the little ways as well as the bigger ones, how you can give back and why it not only benefits others but also yourself

What’s the SQL Family?

The SQL Family (or SQL community call it what you will) is a fabulous place to be. Full of many wonderful, talented, passionate and generous people. Every method of interaction that you wish for can be found if you look. Ever wanted to know how others do it? or Does this happen in other shops? or I wish I had access to someone who knows about ‘insert new shiny thing here’?

I guess that that is how I joined. I had no peers in my shop. I had no one to turn to to ask questions or get advice. I had no support and I turned to the internet. Now we all know that the internet lies. It is full of accidental and deliberate mistruths, of part information and downright bad advice. You have to be careful where you go and who you trust. I gradually found myself going back to the same resources and from those I found out about PASS and user groups

I am in the UK. I found the list of UK SQL User Groups

You can find more here both local and virtual

User Groups

I found a user group near me and went along to a meeting not knowing what to expect. I found a group of people like me willing to give up their time to learn and share knowledge. A wide range of people from DBAs, Developers, BI Professionals and SysAdmins. Working for International multi regional companies looking after many hundreds of SQL Servers to single sysadmins looking after the whole kit and caboodle and everything in between. A wealth and breadth of knowledge to tap into. You will learn so much not only from the sessions but also the conversation with all these other talented people

Come along.

Simply coming along will bring benefit. Other people will be interested in what you have to say even if you are in week 0 of your first ever job. Your view will still be valued. Everyone can learn from everybody and NO-ONE knows it all.

There will come a point where you will pass on a piece of knowledge or an idea or a way of working and someone will say thank you I didn’t know that. You just gave back. It may even be someone you look up to, someone whose knowledge and experience far outweighs yours whose word you hang on to. That feels good.

You may ask the questions that others thought but didnt ask and boy are they glad you asked the question. You just gave back. It’s something I do often. I ask questions and sometimes I ask questions I know the answer to so that they will be of benefit to the group.

What will you get? More than you can ever put in. Free training, often free pizza, knowledge, advice,guidance, contacts, support, a network of people in your field, notice of job openings, swag, fun, friends, more social events and more and more

The user groups are run by volunteers in their own time out of the goodness of their hearts. They will always need your help. Turn up 5 minutes earlier and help set out the chairs or put out the handouts or assist with the tech. You just gave back. Afterwards before going to the pub clear the tables, help carry the boxes, put the pizza evidence in the bin. You just gave back

SQL Saturdays and other community events

SQL Saturdays are held all over the world most every Saturday You can find more about them here https://www.sqlsaturday.com/ There are also other larger events such as SQL Bits and SQL Relay here in the UK. Everything I wrote about User groups counts here just in a slightly larger scale. You will be able to attend several sessions across many different areas for free on a Saturday

These events are also run by volunteers and they will also need your help. If you can spare some time to help on a registration desk you just gave back. A room monitor to ensure the speaker and delegates have everything they need, the room is tidy and the session runs to time. You just gave back. Putting things out and tidying them away again. You just gave back.

You can become a volunteer by asking the people organising the events if they would like your help. These events will all have twitter feeds and emails and facebook pages and many methods of getting in touch. Contact them and offer your help if you can. You just gave back.

If you fancy taking the next step then you can get involved in organising the events. This is hard work, great fun, a good thing to add to your CV and you just gave back. There are so many areas to get involved organising an event. Premises and technology, speakers and printers, volunteers and sponsors all need co-ordination. Websites,twitter feeds, feedback forms, posters, marketing materials all need designing and producing. There are so many ways in which you will be able to provide value to the event and you just gave back

Oh and whilst I am at it, when you attend an event

Say Thank You to the volunteers. You just gave back.

 Speaking and Blogging

All the events named above need speakers. The bigger events like the SQL Saturdays and the large events like SQL Bits will generally have more established speakers but every user group will need speakers and they will be more likely to accept new speakers and will be very supportive if you say that you are a new speaker. Every speaker had to make their first presentation at some point and they all know how it feels and can provide guidance and advice. You will feel that you don’t have anything to speak about that others will want to hear about. You do. Your experience and your knowledge or how you solved something or created something will be of interest to people. Of course, you need to check with the user group leaders and members if your idea for a presentation is suitable. Like anything you do that is new, researching it and taking advice from people with more experience is always useful. Maybe you can start with a lightning talk. Give it a go. You just gave back.

What do you get back from Speaking and Blogging?

I’ll tell you a secret. The vast majority of my posts ( This is an exception) are written for the benefit of one person. Me.

I write posts to record my learning for myself. To document my knowledge. I use my posts to help me to do my job. I know that I wrote the method of doing something somewhere and this is part of my store of knowledge. I write posts to answer peoples questions so that I have a place to point them to. Occasionally people will email me asking a question and if it requires a detailed response I will write a post and email them to tell them that this is the answer. I often point my work colleagues at my blog when they ask me questions about Azure or Powershell. You could also see your blog as an extension of your CV and use it when job hunting and develop it in that way

I also write posts to expand my knowledge and this is the same for speaking. When I am writing a blog post or a presentation I will read and watch videos and ensure I know more about it. The process of creating that content will improve my own knowledge and work practices and you will find that, as you write your blog posts you will have a deeper knowledge also. When you give your presentations you will learn as you answer questions or find the answer to the question afterwards (It’s ok to do that) that you are improving yourself and your knowledge.You will also be giving back.

Putting your information online will enable people to find it. Sure you can worry about SEO and getting to the top of search pages but you know that sometimes the answer is on the ninth page. What you write will be of benefit to others and by taking the time to post you will be giving back to the community

You can do one, many or all of those and you will be giving back. I hope you do

I will be giving back. You will find me at SQL Bits where I shall be room monitoring and volunteering.

You will find me at SQL Saturday Exeter. I am again one of the fabulous SQL South West team

who are again organising a SQL Saturday in Exeter in the UK on April 24th/25th 2015 You can find out more here http://sqlsouthwest.co.uk/sql-saturday-372/ 

You still have time, if you are quick, to submit a session to speak or present a pre-con at Exeter. Submissions close on 15th December and we would love to have yours

I shall carry on blogging and hopefully present at some user groups again this year. If you see me any where, come up and say hi to me. You just gave back

 

 

 

#tsql2sday #60 – Something New Learned – Problem Step Recorder

What is T-SQL Tuesday?

T-SQL Tuesday is a monthly blog party hosted by a different blogger each month. This blog party was started by Adam Machanic (blog|twitter). You can take part by posting your own participating post that fits the topic of the month and follows the requirements Additionally, if you are interested in hosting a future T-SQL Tuesday, contact Adam Machanic on his blog.

This month’s blog party is hosted by Chris Yates blog |twitter who asked people to share something newly learned.

I love being a part of the SQL community. It gives me the opportunity to learn as much as I want to about anything I can think of within the data field. In the last couple of months I have presented at Newcastle User Group and learnt about migrating SQL using Powershell with Stuart Moore. At our user group in Exeter http://sqlsouthwest.co.uk/ we had Steph Middleton talking about version control for databases and lightning talks from Pavol Rovensky on Mocking in C# ,John Martin on Azure fault domains and availability sets using a pen and a whiteboard!, Annette Allen on Database Unit Testing,Terry McCann  on SQL Certifications. We also had Jonathan Allen talking about some free tools and resources to help manage both large and small SQL environments.  I went to SQL Relay in Southampton and saw Stuart Moore (again!) Scott Klein Alex Yates James Skipworth and I joined the PASS DBA fundamentals virtual chapter webinar for Changing Your Habits to Improve the Performance of Your T-SQL by Mickey Stuewe and that’s only the ‘in-person’ learning that I did. I also read a lot of blog posts!

But instead of repeating what I learnt from others within the community I thought I would write a blog post that I have been meaning to write for a few weeks about a solution pre-built into Windows that appears to not be well known. Problem Step Recorder.

What is PSR?

I found out about a little known tool included in Windows Operating System a couple of months ago which enables you to record what you are doing by taking screenshots of every mouse click. The tool is Step Recorder also known as PSR. It is included by default in Windows 7 , Windows 8 and 8.1 and Windows Server 2008 and above.

What does it do?

Simply put, it records “This is what I did” There are many situations when this can be useful

  • You can use this during installations to help create documentation. “This is what I did” when I installed X and now you can follow those steps and I know I haven’t missed anything.
  • You can use it when communicating with 3rd parties or other support teams. “This is what I did” when I got this error and here are all of the steps so that you can re-create the issue and I know that I haven’t missed anything
  • You can use this when resolving high priority incidents. “This is what I did” when System X broke, it includes all of the times of my actions.
    I still keep my notepad by my keyboard out of habit but I have a record of the exact steps that I took to try to resolve the issue which will be very useful for reporting on the incident in the near future and also placing into a Knowledge Base for others to use if it happens again and I know I haven’t missed anything
  • For assisting family members. Like many, I am “The IT guy” and PSR enables me to provide clear instructions with pictures showing exactly where I clicked to those family members who are having trouble with “The internet being broken”

It does this by automatically taking a screen shot after every mouse click or program event with a timestamp and a description of what happened. It does not record keystrokes though so if you need to record what you have typed there is some manual steps required

So how do you access PSR?

Simple. Type “psr” into the run box, cmd or PowerShell and it will open

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Once you click on Start Record it will start recording your clicks and taking screenshots. However I always open the settings by clicking on the drop down to the left of the help icon first and change the number of recent screen captures to store to the maximum value of 100.

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If you do not you will get no warning but PSR will only save the last 25 screenshots it takes and your results will look like the below. It will still record your actions but not keep the screenshots.

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Step 16: (‎09/‎11/‎2014 13:47:45) User left click on “Chris Yates (@YatesSQL) | Twitter (tab item)”

No screenshots were saved for this step.

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Step 17: (‎09/‎11/‎2014 13:47:47) User left click on “The SQL Professor | ‘Leadership Through Service’ (text)”

No screenshots were saved for this step.

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Step 18: (‎09/‎11/‎2014 13:47:47) User left click on “T-SQL Tuesday #60 – Something New Learned | The SQL Professor (text)” in “T-SQL Tuesday #60 – Something New Learned | The SQL Professor – Google Chrome”

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You can also set the name and location of the saved file in the settings but if you leave it blank it will prompt for a location and name once you click Stop Record

How do I add keyboard input?

PSR allows you add keyboard input manually. You may need this if you need to include the text you have entered into prompts or address bars or if you wish to add further comment. You can do this by clicking add comment, drawing a box around the relevant part of the screen for the text input and inputting the text into the box

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In the results this looks like

Step 1: (‎09/‎11/‎2014 12:56:22) User Comment: “http://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/download/details.aspx?id=42573

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What do the results look like?

Once you have finished the actions that you want to record (or when you think you are close to 100 screenshots) click stop record and the following screen will be displayed

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This allows you to review what PSR has recorded. You can then save it to a location of your desire. It is saved as a zip file which has a single .mht file in it. You can open the file without unzipping the archive and it will open in Internet Explorer. As you can see from the shots below you can run PSR on your client and it will still record actions in your RDP sessions although it does not record as much detail. The first two are on my SCOM server in my lab and the second two are on the laptop using the SCOM console

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Step 11: (‎09/‎11/‎2014 13:02:13) User left click on “Input Capture Window (pane)” in “SCOM on ROB-LAPTOP – Virtual Machine Connection”

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Step 12: (‎09/‎11/‎2014 13:02:16) User left click on “Input Capture Window (pane)” in “SCOM on ROB-LAPTOP – Virtual Machine Connection”

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Step 13: (‎09/‎11/‎2014 13:06:25) User right click on “Management Packs (tree item)” in “Agent Managed – THEBEARDMANAGEMENTGROUP – Operations Manager”

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Step 14: (‎09/‎11/‎2014 13:06:27) User left click on “Import Management Packs… (menu item)”

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You can then use the zip file as you wish. Maybe you email it to your third party support team (once you have edited any confidential data) or you can attach it to your incident in your IT Service Management solution or attach it to a report. If you wish to create documentation you can open the .mht file in Word, edit it as you see fit and save it appropriately.

So that is one of the many things that I have learnt recently and I am looking forward to seeing what others have learnt especially as many will have just been to the SQL PASS Summit. You will be able to find the other posts in this blog party in the comments on Chris’s page