Blog ala Vidar

SQL, AppFrame and other cool technologies

Monthly Archives: April 2010

Microsoft Releases 2010

There’s been a “wave” of releases from Microsoft the last months, and more to come. The following are already released: Visual Studio 2010, Silverlight 4, SQL Server 2008 R2 (will be available on MSDN/TechNet May 3rd), Office 2010 (mmmmmm, sexy) and SharePoint Server 2010. Later this year Windows Live “Wave 4” will be released, Windows Phone 7 and the new Windows Home Server (code named “Vail”). It’s a lovely year for those of that LOVE playing with new (betas and) releases.

To get all of these (except Visual Studio (which you can get with MSDN), Windows Live and Phone 7), the only thing you need is a TechNet subscription which costs $349 the first year and $249 for renewal. Compared to buying all these licenses in the store, it’s almost as cheap as pirating it! And, you don’t need to worry about downloading viruses, things that doesn’t work etc.

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SQL Server 2008 R2

R2 has finally hit RTM (Release To Manufacturing). Is it worth upgrading? Always! But there aren’t many changes that’s not related to the BI (Business Intelligence) part. Here are the keywords: Better SQL Azure compatibility, support for 256(!!!) logical processors. 2008 “only” supported 64. SSMS dashboards.

They’ve also done a couple of things regarding licensing. Datacenter and Parallel Data Warehouse editions have been introduced. Oh, yeah and Express Edition will now support up to 10GB databases, instead of 4GB.

Exchange 2010

Have you heard the big news? We’re changing from our own mail-system to Exchange 2010! This means everyone in Omega will be able to use Outlook to everything. And by everything I mean not just mail, but calendar, contacts +++. After what I’ve heard it might already be up and running within a couple of weeks. There will be an integration with our Persons-form (with all our contacts) which will be synced to AD so everyone’s got read-only access to them. In addition you can of course create your own personal contacts.

Mail will still be integrated in TeamDocuments, but I’m counting on that will be the OWA (Outlook Web Access) interface.

SQL Server Analysis Services

Today a couple of us in Ølen had the pleasure of attending a session with Jan Ove Halvorsen with SSAS (SQL Server Analysis Services) as topic. This was an introduction to SSAS, although most of it was heavy stuff. I’ve played with SSAS before, but have had problems understanding some of the basics. This might help you on the way.

What is SSAS?

SSAS is part of the OLAP BI (Business Intelligence) part of SQL Server.  It’s also a part of the SQL Server licensing. This means that if you own a SQL Server license, you also own a SSAS license. It is recommended to install it on a server beside SQL Server, because it’s heavy on RAM usage. To connect to it you either use Visual Studio, Management Studio or an API. You can also connect to it using ADOMD.NET.

SSAS Modes

There are three main modes in SSAS:
MOLAP – Multidimensional OLAP – Data, aggregations and structures are stored in OLAP
HOLAP – Hybrid OLAP – Mix of MOLAP and ROLAP
ROLAP – Relational OLAP – Uses data from SQL Server but stores some structural data in OLAP

This means that you don’t need to run non-live data. For instance you can run MOLAP on monthly updates with a SQL Server Agent job running every month (or similar), storing everything in SSAS. This makes it VERY fast to query. If you need more live data, you can run ROLAP, so you get live data all the time. This will not be as fast, and it will also give a load on the SQL Server each time a query is executed.

With the 2005 version there came a new feature to SSAS, enabling it to “subscribe” to updates on the SQL Server. So, if you’re running ROLAP, it will generate the cube, and just use that local cube till there’s updates in the underlying data (on the SQL Server). When there’s an update SSAS gets a notification that there are changes, and it will rebuild the cube. Either the whole cube, or just parts of it.

OLAP Cubes and Dimensions

In SSAS you’re browsing cubes. A cube is a “collection” of dimensions. A dimension is a set of data, in many cases a one to one relation to a table or similar in SQL Server. This might for example be “Products”, “Cities”, “Countries” or similar. You also must have a time dimension. This means that all your data are aggregated so that every possible join of these (Products, Cities, Countries and Time) are stored as one “table”. This is what’s making this so fast to query, because everything’s “prejoined”.

Hierarchy

You can create hierarchies in SSAS. The most common is the Year –> Month –> Day hierarchy. This enables you to group by year, and just by clicking expand, you’ll get group by month in your client without having to get new data from the server.

Creating cubes

There are several ways of creating cubes, dimensions and other stuff. You can either use Visual Studio, Management Studio, or you can use a query language. This can be done using MDX (MultiDimensional eXpressions) which looks a lot like Transact SQL, but is also VERY different. An example could be:

SELECT
  { [Measures].[Store Sales] } ON COLUMNS,
  { [Date].[2002], [Date].[2003] } ON ROWS
	FROM Sales
	WHERE ( [Store].[USA].[CA] )

In this example Sales is the name of the cube. Store is one of their dimensions.

AppEd 2010

If you were at AppEd 2008, you should go “WHHOOOOHOOOO” right now because I’m here to tell you about AppEd 2010! It’s still in planning stage, but we’re getting there. We hope to host this event every second year. We’ll also try to make it an even better success than last time, if that’s possible.

We’re planning on Thursday – Saturday in the beginning of September. We’re also working on getting an external speaker (and maybe two? :), so we have to try to set our schedule after him/her/they etc.

The planning is done in TeamDoc and OneNote. OneNote is btw a GREAT tool for putting thoughts on “paper”. We’ll have two focus areas this time; PIMS and Web3, but we’ll also cover CR3, SQL, Reports and maybe even Silverlight! Do you have any requests for sessions or speakers, just contact me and I’ll see what I can do. We’re also hoping on making it works so that MSDN Live in Stavanger is on Wednesday before the event, so that we’ll almost get a full week with pure learning, and of course mingling. I’m also working on enabling our employees outside Norway to join via the Advantage system, but don’t tell Johnny and Peter about this as I haven’t told them about my ideas there yet! … and for the record, the “lessons learned” from last time is in my OneNote notebook, so we’ve got those in mind 🙂

This might also be the first AppEd with attendees outside Omega, which means we will invite customers etc to the conference. THAT will be cool! Because of this, we’ll of course have everything from “for dummies” sessions to deep-advanced-shit-that-only-a-rocket-scientist-understands.

Bottom line; Start spreading the word. AppEd 2010 will (hopefully) be in September, bigger AND better than last time! If you’ve got ideas, give’em to me!

News from Ølen about stuff that matters

You might have noticed there was just a holiday. Something about Jesus eating some bad chicken, so everyone thought he died, but then he woke up a couple of days later feeling much better. Anyways, because of this bad chicken, I’ve been VERY busy the last week, playing Modern Warfare 2 on Xbox. Ai can has vacation 2!

AppFrame as a product!
Since I started in Omega I’ve been fighting for releasing AppFrame as a framework for developers outside Omega. Now that’s almost a reality. We’re soon going to offer AppFrame as a product, along side PIMS and our other products. There haven’t been any final decision on pricing and stuff, but I can guarantee it will be affordable. This means that all developers out there that want to use AppFrame as their Framework to make applications can soon start doing this! They MIGHT even get the source code! After releasing CR3 I’m now confident that this is an AWESOME product. If you’ve met me, you know I’m not a sales person. I always say what I mean, and I can say with my full heart that AppFrame is without a doubt a VERY good product to develop applications for customers! Contact me if you want a presentation (from a developer, or a sales person. Your choice!). I’ll probably post a blog about the details when there’s been a decision on price etc.

NNUG and MTUG Haugesund
I’m the chapter of NNUG (Norwegian .NET User Group) Haugesund. We had a meeting at Rica Maritim Hotel in Haugesund March 22nd. The speaker was Einar Ingebrigtsen, and he talked about creating games with managed code. That means, using Silverlight, XNA, DirectX and similar. We had a new record of attendees: 27! That’s really high, at least if you compare us to Bergen which is a MUCH bigger city, but they’ve got about an average of about 20 people every meeting.

Since I’m both interested in programming and hosting-related stuff, I thought it would be cool to start a user group that could concentrate about the IT Pro’s out there, just like NNUG is concentrating on MSDN-people. Timing perfect, as always, I read on twitter that a guy called Jan Egil Ring was about to start MTUG (Microsoft Technology User Group). I’ve offered myself as the contact person in Haugesund, and I’m now working on gathering people so we can get a committee to manage this group. I’ll keep all of you updated when we’ll start having meetings etc.

VB.NET 10
Except playing Xbox, what have I been doing lately? I’ve played a lot with Visual Studio 2010 RC. A hot tip for those of you thinking you’ll play with Silverlight 4 in the RC. Don’t even think about it. It doesn’t work. I didn’t know this, so after 6-7 hours of swearing, kicking, screaming etc. Erik (coworker and friend) told me that’s not possible. Well, thanks! After that I started playing with WPF, since it’s basically the same except that Silverlight is a wossy-version of WPF /me hides under the table, waiting for the Silverlight-folks to start screaming. I’ve already managed to create a simple twitter client, trying out LINQ to XML, LINQ to Entities and a couple of new minor changes to VB. The fact that you now can create a Property on a class with ONE line of code is awesome. And, yes, before you C#-fanatics say “we’ve had this for ages”, you now got optional parameters, which VB have had for about 1000 years. We now also got something that’s got a fancy name. “Implicit Line Continuation”, which basically means that you don’t have to end all lines with _ if you want to continue this line on the next. This was very annoying in for example LINQ, where you’ve got something like:

Dim v = From a In AppDomain.CurrentDomain.GetAssemblies _
		Where a.ToString.Length > 0
		Select a.ToString()

Here is a great example. On the first line you need to specify the _ at the end, if not you’re not “allowed” to continue, but you don’t need it on the Where-line. Pretty confusing. Well, now you don’t need it at all.

One other thing that I find really nice is the improved IntelliSense. Now you can start typing “To”, and you’ll get:

CompareTo, CopyTo, ToString etc

Before, you only got ToString, since that’s the only thing starting with To. You can also search for AD, and get AppDomain, since .NET uses Pascal Casing.

Blogs

We’ve been working a bit on the blogs site. Or, to be honest, I’ve been making tasks and Stian has been doing them. The new (some of them are old, but you might not have noticed them before) features are: Tags. This works the same ways as Categories, except that you can tag an article with more than one Tag. We’ve then got Tag Clouds, to show which Tags are the most mentioned, and which are rarer.

If you’re using TeamDocuments, you will be auto-logged in which gives you the possibility of rating all posts, and commenting on them! You can even comment as an anonym user.

Johnny said today that he’ll start blogging more. Peter also had this statement a couple of weeks ago. Guess it’s just like X-files, “Du tror det ikke før du får se det!” (something like You won’t believe it before you see it!). But I would be very happy to see some posts from them too!

Build 5

The technology department released Build 5 of AppFrame a couple of weeks ago. Peter was our “speaker” at our last cake-meeting where he went through most of the changes done in this build. I’m really excited to start upgrading our clients to this release!

Issue Tracker

To report bugs (yes, we as everyone else, including Microsoft!, produce bugs), the technology department released a new “issue tracker”. This makes it SOOO much easier for me, since I now don’t have to read 10-15 TeamDocs every day to check if the bugs I’ve reported have been fixed. Most of the things I’m reporting is even getting fixed within a couple of hours (sometimes days), depending on the severity of the bug/suggestion. I’m strongly recommending you all to report everything you find, so we’ll get an even better product! Just today I’ve reported two things; resizing issues with the calendar in chrome and the distribution lists not working. They haven’t been fixed yet, but the distribution lists-thing is “in process”.

 

If you’ve got any suggestions on what you want me to blog about, or you’ve got comments, please send them to me! And remember to rate the posts! Good or bad. I won’t bite… Changed my mind. I will bite 🙂