The first month of the new year is more than half way done. Time flies, but I’ve already had time to go to SQL Saturday Linz in beautiful Austria. I delivered “Headless chicken – calming the sysadmin-turned-DBA” to a full room, and it was 60 minutes of fun, shenanigans and failing to use a flipchart properly – all while having an excellent discussion about the intricacies of waking up as a DBA. Tomorrow I’m leaving for a quick trip to Mechelen in Belgium and the first-ever Power BI Days conference! I have it on good authority that there will be a good crowd and I’m more than happy to be a part of Europe’s newest Power BI-focused event. It will be a quick in-and-out though as I’m flying home again Saturday afternoon. In Mechelen I will be delivering one of my favorite sessions: “Arguing with myself – self-service BI from an infrastructure perspective”, absolutely sure so get laughs. I mean – I’m wearing two different hats and I’m arguing with myself in three different voices – what’s not to like…?
I’ve been thinking about this blog post a lot these last few days. The classic “end-of-year” post that most everyone does, but this one has turned out to be rather special for me. At the same time it is kind of scary, as when I look back on what I’ve done and accomplished this year, I realize how much it actually is – and how much I have actually chosen *not* to do.
2018 was the year I decided to step up my speaking game for real. I had spent 2016 and 2017 polishing my skills and sending abstracts to what felt like every conference there was. In 2016 I spoke at two conferences, both in Sweden. In 2017, the number rose to 3 – still in Sweden. 2018 saw that number go up a bit – 22 events, of which took me to 10 countries and 19 cities. Two events I managed to do right from home – a good thing as they were in Victoria, Canada and Saõ Paolo, Brazil. With them I validated that my technical setup at home is up to par for delivering quality sessions over the internet as well.
I’ve made many, many, many new friends and acquaintances. The sheer number of amazing people in the community is absolutely mind-boggling. Thank you for letting me play in your sandbox.
I finished my first Pluralsight course. That was way more work than I had expected, and it will be a while before I do my next one. They are a great company to work with.
I helped organize a conference – the Global Azure Bootcamp event in Linköping, Sweden. We became the largest GAB in Sweden, despite being brand new (and several of us having no real clue how to organize things).
I switched roles at work – I went from being a full-time consultant to something different. These days I focus on presale, training and new opportunities, all in order to scale up the pool of skill we have at Atea. I still do technical consulting, but as the time for that is strictly limited, this has made the things I’m actually called in to do way more interesting (and challenging!) as people know I’m not the right tool for whatever data related job that happens to come their way.
In October I was awarded the Data Platform MVP, something I did not see coming. I coveted the title, as I would think most people in this field does, but I was not expecting it. The MVP has meant a lot to me, in so many ways. It has changed me in a lot of ways as well, but perhaps not in the ways that people would think. I’ve tried to write a post about that a few times, but it hasn’t quite matured yet. More about that in a future post.
Simon and I produced some 38 episodes of the podcast, and we’re slowly finding our feet. Who knew that doing a podcast could be that difficult?
So, yeah – 2018 has been … hectic.
While I don’t regret doing any of the above, I realize that in order to do them, I have had to skip other things. I have been away from home over 50 nights. That is 50 nights I have not spent with my wife or the cats. I have not had the time to work on my droid as I had hoped. I had to step down as the Commanding Officer for the 501st Legion: Nordic Garrison. I haven’t had a “normal” weekend since January as I’ve always been working on sessions, travelling or doing something else work-related. It is important to consider that everything has a price. I am exceptionally fortunate in that I have a wife that is both supportive but at the same time not accepting any bullshit. In the end, it comes down to choice. I chose to do these things. The choices are mine, as are the consequences, but having Tove at my side has made things infinitely easier.
Would I do them again? Good question, more about that later.
I move into 2019 with four conferences, one course and two trips to the US already booked before midsummer. I’m moving more and more towards Power BI, which means producing new sessions and content. More events and opportunities are sure to arise. Simon and I have launched a rather huge project at work to raise Azure and Microsoft 365 literacy among the consultants, something that will mean more training and more assisting other consultants. I’ve become the co-organizer of the Swedish Power BI Usergroup and I will try to host a few events in both Stockholm and Malmö. Not only have Simon and I revamped the Knee-deep in Tech website, we will do a new attempt at recording video to go with the podcast too – as well as doing webinars. If you think doing a podcast is hard, try video. That is a whole new level of crazy. Luckily I have the most amazing friends who know a lot more about video than we do on hand to help.
We’ve agreed to produce more blog content as well – there will be one post at least once a week, and we’re thinking of extending the Knee-deep in Tech family with one, maybe two more people.
Going back to the question of doing it again. I’m not sure I would, to be honest. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve learned so much about myself and I am a much better person for it. Having said that, the price I’ve paid has been steep, perhaps steeper than I would have preferred. Again, it all comes down to choice – I chose to do what I did and I do not try to put that on anyone else. I also choose my way forward, and while 2019 might look like a madhouse from the outside (and, to be fair, rather much from the inside as well), I’ve already put on the brakes. I no longer shoot abstracts to everyone and their cat, and as soon as I have my sessions up and running things will settle down quite a bit. The days of working 40-ish hours a week are long gone and won’t be coming back, but this is my choice. 2019 will be an intensive year for sure, but I have every intention of making it a smarter, smoother year. I wrap this post up with a reading tip: “The subtle art of not giving a f*ck” by Mark Manson. One of the most important books I’ve read in a long time.
I wish each and every one of you a happy new year. Buckle up, as we’re leaving 2018 and 2019 promises to be quite a ride…
As we’re just about to move kneedeepintech.com from one host to another, episode 58 will be temporarily hosted here again!
In episode 58 of Knee-Deep in Tech we talk about several important Power BI blog posts, Surface Hub 2, the upcoming Chromium-based Edge browser, Windows Lite and the power of the Microsoft community!
You can find us on Spotify:
or play right here:
Marco Russo – understanding numeric data type conversions in DAX
Kasper de Jonge – Time intelligence solved with modelling and crossfilter instead of DAX measures
Patrick LeBlanc @ Guy in a Cube – Power BI Paginated Reports: Data source, Dataset and parameters
In a very short while I’ll be removing the podcast posts from this blog as they’ve been concentrated on https://www.kneedeepintech.com for some time. Christmas is coming, and with it a feeling of wanting to clean house, even on this blog 😛
I was recently accepted to speak at a SQL Server-related event in Europe. As I relish the opportunity to speak I was very happy and started preparing in earnest for booking the trip and polishing my session. However, when I took a look at the schedule, I found the name of another speaker that I had not expected to find anymore. This person has been tossed out of one of the most important Microsoft programs allegedly (as I don’t have personal, first-hand knowledge) due to repeatedly misbehaving in general and being sexist in particular – a behavior I have personally witnessed multiple times. As is the case with most people behaving in this way, this person has shown no regret or even understanding how this behavior could possibly be interpreted as wrong in any way. As this information has not become very public, I reached out to the organizers of this event to ask them if they knew about this person’s history and behavior, and if they really wanted someone like that speaking at their event.
While I don’t exactly know what I was expecting for an answer, I was not expecting the answer I received. The answer was basically the organizers putting their head in the sand and explaining that they treat everyone with the equal respect and expect the same back. Unless anyone is convicted of a crime they would not be kept out of speaking at their event, as they could not act on hearsay alone. They were, in my opinion, hiding behind a legal straw man that has little or nothing to do with the question at hand.
As it was abundantly clear that the organizers do not share my values when it comes to community, I was faced with the choice of either speaking at this event and implicitly accepting this individual’s behavior or withdraw to make a point. I chose the latter as I feel the need to stand up to sexism and generally deplorable behavior. I can’t change the world, but I can make a personal stand despite this costing me an important speaking opportunity.
Our community is too precious to not make a stand.
*updated with the word “allegedly” as I am not privy to Microsoft’s reasoning.*
All the cool people are doing it (Brent Ozar, Daniel Hutmacher) so I felt compelled to do the same – a quick run-down of the bag (and the contents) that has been travelling with me to 11 countries so far this year. When going speaking in Europe, I never check a bag. There are several reasons for that – it’s more expensive, it takes more time, and I simply don’t need it. I’m away for anything between two and five days and I’ve found that I can comfortably fit all the clothes I need plus computer and various electronic gizmos that goes with it. The bag I chose after *very* careful research was the Tom Bihn Western Flyer. It might not look like much, but it is versatile, perfectly sized for everything I need, it is built like a tank *and* it fits perfectly underneath the seat in front of me on most aircraft (most notable exception was an Embraer 145).
In the beginning I wasn’t sure I could fit everything in it, but after finding the concept of bundle packing everything started to come together. Using this technique I can easily fit one pair of pants, a t-shirt or a dress shirt for every day of travel plus underwear – all without very many wrinkles. I put all the underwear and smaller items in a generic small packing cube and use that as the “plug” in the bundle packing and – voilá! it all fits. I put the resulting bundle in a Tom Bihn mesh bag that fits perfectly in the back compartment of the bag. I’ve also started to include a pair of five-finger shoes to have proper clothing for exercise at hotels – they really don’t take up any space, and it looks way less conspicuous going to gym in them than in my dress shoes…
The other compartment is taken up by my computer. I sport a Microsoft Surface Laptop, and it travels in a laptop sleeve by the Finnish company Mozo, meaning I (almost) never have to take the computer out of the sleeve at airport security. Together with said computer I *always* bring my Bose QC35 series 1 (if you’re thinking of buying them, get the series 2) noise-cancelling headset. These are ABSOLUTELY KEY for me to get *anything* done at either the airport or on the plane.
All the bits and bobs go into an organizer of similar kind to Daniel and Brent that I managed to win(!) at a raffle at this year’s MCT Zero Day at Ignite in Orlando. In here the usual toys can be found – laptop charger, mini displayport-> VGA, HDMI and DisplayPort adapters, power plug adapter, a Microsoft Surface Arc mouse, an iPhone charger, and cable, a Jackery Bolt powerbank as well as my trusty Logitech Spotlight presentation remote. The computer sleeve sits in the back of the front compartment towards the middle of the bag and the cable organizer and headphones sit towards the front. This means that I can put my small, clear toiletry bag on top of the headphones and still have a fully packed bag not be very thick, like so:
My passport lives in one of the front zippered pockets.
Going through airport security is a breeze: remove belt and watch (might be unnecessary, your mileage may vary) and put them in either the back compartment on top of the clothing bundle or in the front leftmost pocket, unzip the front main compartment and pull out the computer and the toiletries and put everything in the plastic tubs heading for the X-ray machine. It literally takes me seconds to get the stuff I need OUT of the bag and ever so slightly longer to stuff it back in – all in all, security is dead simple with this setup.
I’m on a train heading to Stockholm and Microsoft TechDays, where I’ll be delivering “Azure SQL Server for the on-prem DBA”. This session outlines what’s available in Azure, what is automatic, what is not quite automatic and what is idiosyncratic, as well as explores some of the hard questions one should ask whenever the topic of databases in the cloud comes up.
This is the second time I’ve been selected to speak at TechDays, and I find this to be a very nice conference. It’s a good venue, a lot of people and a great sponsor area. This year I’ll apparently hold court in one of the larger rooms – rather exciting!
While I’d have loved to stay for the whole conference, I was also accepted to speak at the MCT Summit in Cologne. Unfortunately the two conferences run in parallel. I was fortunate enough to be able to ask for an early session at TechDays and late sessions at the MCT Summit, so I’ll be running for the airport pretty much as soon as I’m done in Stockholm. On Thursday I’ll be delivering “SQL Server hates you(?) – what the DBA never told the developers”, and on Friday it’s time for the third run of “Talk tech to me – improve your technical presentation skills”. Both of them are kind of favorite sessions for me, and I’m up to around 10 deliveries of “SQL Server hates you(?)” so I’ve achieved a nice flow presenting that one.
On Monday this week I was downtown for some business as the new MVP awards started hitting Twitter. As several of my good friends were awarded this round, I was very happy and excited for them. They’ve all worked long and hard for our wonderful community, and it felt absolutely amazing to see them get recognized. My business concluded, I walked home in a warm, early autumn drizzle and felt rather good about things. This year has been absolutely exceptional i so many ways, as I’ve been out speaking in 15 different countries thus far this year. Fifteen. The speaking have taken off in a way I could not have imagined as I continue to receive favorable responses to my abstracts.
The podcast is up to 50 episodes plus around ten extra episodes such as the preIgnite as well as the Ignite ones. There are several interviews that have yet to be released, but suffice to say we’ve had the pleasure to talk to a lot of very interesting people at Ignite. We’ve started toying with video (which turned out to be about an order of magnitude more difficult than expected), and we have a lot of ideas there under the auspice of Knee-Deep in Tech. I’ve had the profound honor of mentoring a handful of new and upcoming speakers this year as well, and I’ve been completely blown away by their results and ability for growth. To get even further, I will be starting to help out with the Swedish Power BI User group this autumn as well – things are most definitely going in the right direction.
I thought back to my first PASS Summit where these mythical creatures with “MVP” and “MCM” badges roamed the halls. I didn’t dare talk to them to begin with, but it gradually dawned on me that these people were just like me, only even more driven to share and help others grow. I decided right then and there that I too could play that game, and that I would do what little I could to spread the word, mentor people, speak and train as many as I possibly could. I immediately loved every opportunity to share knowledge and help people out.
After I came home I spent some time with my wife and played with the cats, so it wasn’t until 7 or 8 pm that I checked my email. In my inbox I found an email I had not expected – an email that congratulated me for being awarded Microsoft MVP for Data Platform. I’m now one of those “mythical” creatures I met so many ears ago. I’m now an MVP, but I’m also exactly the same guy I was last Sunday – nothing more, nothing less. I am humbled by this award and I can’t wait to use my newfound powers to do even more My mission remains.
To everyone who has helped me and encourage me along the way: thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I was invited by the PASS Professional Development Virtual Chapter to deliver “Talk tech to me – improving your technical presentation skills” on the 13th of September. The recording just went live and can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srBe5Q-2xPE&feature=youtu.be but I have to warn sensitive viewers that there are some very disturbingly graphical dancing in there. I had a blast speaking and I’m very much hoping to get to do it again in the future!
I’ve been asked about the technical setup I’ve just recently put together to be able to do remote sessions, podcasts, videocasts and similar. Now, this is kind of a dangerous thing to ask me about, as I’m VERY much a techno freak, so you asked, you shall receive. In excruciating detail…
This is a picture of my home office – the place where I spend way too much time when I’m not at my day office (which is a fairly rare thing these days).
It’s a standard sit/stand desk from IKEA (one of the perks of being a Swede!) that I almost always have in the standing position. A tip I learned the hard way is that standing and working is hard on the feet – put a rug or similar underneath your feet and enjoy a distinct lack of discomfort! The stuff in the picture is as follows:
Logitech Spotlight wireless presenter
This i’ve already described in fair detail here: Logitech Spotlight -initial thoughts but the software has come a long way since then. I’ll do a followup in the near future as I’ve done som tweaks to the setup that has gotten the thing to the point where I’m quite happy with it.
Asus MB16AC external USB monitor
This was one of the more novelty purchases I’ve done, but in retrospect it turned out absolutely brilliant. I use it as a secondary screen where I keep my presenter view during speaking. Depending on if it is a remote session, a video (yes, I’m working on those) or a regular session at a conference, the secondary screen serves different purposes. It’s fairly lightweight, has a good resolution and is very versatile, but security people at airports have been known to be a bit confused as to why the “computer” won’t turn on…
Rode Procaster microphone
This mic I’ve been eyeing since I first started thinking of doing a podcast, but I’ve stayed away from it for several reasons. First, it requires a proper USB/XLR interface is a dynamic microphone. The old Yeti microphone I used to use to record the podcast has been exchanged for the AKG boom mic in my podcasting setup, but I always wanted a dynamic mic for the (in my opinion) better, richer sound. Unfortunately, this mic quickly showed me two issues that I was not aware of that I had – the first was that the (nonexistent) sound treatment of my room meant that the acoustics were … very bad, and that the mic required an insane amount of gain to get a usable signal out of. Fortunately I have a colleague who is a soundnerd of epic proportions, and he gave me a lot of help with choosing the most suitable sound treatment materials for my room. There is only so much one CAN do to a room in a rental apartment, but doing it is absolutely vital. More about that below.
The other problem with low gain and the subsequent noisy signal was overcome with a Cloudlifter (https://www.cloudmicrophones.com/cloudlifter-cl-1). It is, quite simply, a pre-amp that uses phantom power to give the signal a clean boost up to +25dB – and boy, what a boost it is. It completely changed the signal into a crisp, clear and strong signal that is absolutely awesome for podcasting, voiceovers, delivering sessions or anything else I might want to do with it.
Logitech BRIO 4K webcam
I had not given webcams much thought when I decided to get one. Fortunately, my partner in crime Simon had, and he was adamant that we get the Logitech BRIO 4k webcam, despite it being much more expensive than the other webcams out there. After using it for a while I can say I think I know why it is that much more expensive, as I find the picture to be absolutely excellent. Simon and I are working on doing webinars in the not-too-distant future, and these cameras are key to produce good video. I do find the built-in capability of removing the background live during a conversation to be more of a novelty than actually useful, though.
Yamaha MG10XU USB mixer
When I was working with my Pluralsight course I got a crash course in audio. As in – my audio was crap, and I needed to fix it – stat. My previous USB audio interface was pretty cheap and worked OK – or so I thought. When using proper headphones it became painfully obvious that the signal was simply too poor to be used, despite running it repeatedly through noise filters. I started to do research and stumbled over the Yamaha MG10XU mixer – a 10-channel mixer with more features you could easily shake a stick at. It’s more than I need, but it comes very highly recommended and after running it for a while I can conclude that my previous issues of noisy signal are gone. As it is an analog mixer I can tweak the sound to my preference, and it even has a built-in compressor so I won’t need to add any compression to the signal during the post processing step! I can easily add any other sound source to the mixer, apply effects and shunt the result straight into Audacity (my weapon of choice for recording audio). The mixer accepts XLR, RCA, phono plugs and probably a few other connectors I don’t even know about.
With the Cloudlifter I don’t have to crank the gain very high at all, but still enjoy a crystal clear signal. My iPad with a sound pad app is connected to one of the line inputs and one of the most amazing things – I get to hear what the mixer hears as I get monitor functionality with the MG10XU.
Not pictured is the software I use, and that depends on what I am producing. For sound recording I’ve been using Audacity with great success. However, Audacity is missing one thing that I desperately need – the ability match audio volume between clips. I might have to look at Adobe Audition for that.
For video I’ve been using Camtasia. One of the many perks of being an MCT is free access to Camtasia, and while I like the tool I find some aspects of it … unrefined. The lack of keyboard shortcuts drive me nuts sometimes, and some things take forever. I’m thinking of going to Adobe Premiere, but Adobe is … quite more expensive.
I’ve used Google Hangouts for presentations, and there is one quirk that is going to be an issue for me going forward – you can’t see both the presentation AND the video of the presenter. As I’ll be doing some professional development sessions this fall, I need to *both* show the slides and the video as I’ll be talking about body language. Not quite decided on how to do things – maybe pre-record video and put it into the session.
The room is you garden-variety 14-15 m2 room with one window, some closets and a hardwood floor. If you clap your hands in there, the echo hits you like a bus. Not a good starting position for recording good audio, where the idea is to reduce the bounce and echo to a minimum. There are several ways to do it, and my way lands firmly in the “not the worst way of doing it”, but definitely not nowhere near the “best” way either. The theory is … deep, to put it simply, but it all comes down to controlling sound bounce/reflection and echo using a combination of absorbing or diffusing materials. Since I’m only concerned with my voice and not full-spectrum music, I don’t have to go all out with huge bass traps and such, thus I’ve decided on a “middle of the road” approach with only acoustic foam. As the apartment is a rental apartment I couldn’t glue the foam to the walls (as is otherwise the way to do it), so I went online and got a kind of long tacks. They work well enough I can remove the foam with little or no damage to the foam itself, and the wall only look like I’ve had a poster or two there. I tried the 3M command strips as well, but they took both pieces of the foam AND the wallpaper with them when I tried to remove them. The cats loved to chew on them, though…
I’ve put some foam in front of my microphone to catch the sound of my voice, and I’ve put foam squares in the sloping ceiling behind me. I’ve also put foam on the other walls in hope of as much of the echos as I reasonably can. The corners are an issue (ask any acoustic engineer what they feel about corners!) but so far I’ve chosen to ignore them. For best effect I should have rotated the squares 90 degrees against each other, but for some reason my brain decided to forget this when I put them up.
The CNC machine and the R2D2 has nothing to do with the rest of this blog post, though 😛
Not shown is my rug. It’s a garden variety rug (also from IKEA!) on the floor to take care of the hard surface. You’d be surprised how much reflections come off the floor, and while I technically should take care of the ceiling as well, that is (at the moment) beyond my ambition.
And there you have it – my home office as it stands right now. I’m working on a post that details my mobile podcasting setup as well, look for that in the near future!