Browsing articles tagged with " Tips"

The Tricky Part of Doing Tricky Things in your Data Model – SQL Saturday Phoenix

Apr 16, 2016   //   by Karen Lopez   //    //  No Comments

SQL Sat PHX logo

We’ve mastered the basics of data modeling and data modeling patterns, but what happens when you or a teammate wants to use this one weird trick to improve on the data model and the resulting database design? Have you just discovered a brilliant new trick that no one else has ever thought of? Or will your new design cost you more, take on more risk and cause all kinds of pain for both IT and your business users?

We’ll look at a few tricks that we’ve seen in our database design review and show you how they work and talk about the trade offs for using them. You’ll learn about:

Building a database engine inside your database
Designing before understanding your business model
Dealing with data structures that don’t do well in RDBMSs
Optimizing the developer versus the data or the app
Using design patterns that don’t reflect modern architectures and tools
…and a lot more

10 ER/Studio Productivity Tips to Help You Love Your Data Models – Webinar

Mar 30, 2016   //   by Karen Lopez   //    //  No Comments

Idera Geek Sync Duck with glasses

Maybe you’ve been using ER/Studio for years, maybe you’re just getting started. Maybe you don’t even know where to start. You might be a full time data architect or an accidental database designer – either way, you’ll want to know about the settings and features to make your Mondays more tolerable and your Fridays more fun.

In this session, Karen covers her 10 favorite tips and tricks for working with ER/Studio. We’ll look at how to configure ER/Studio to save time, reduce risks and to make your data modeler life less stressful. She will show you features that will make your models more loved and valued by your IT and business team members.

Finally, we’ll wrap up with recommendations for more resources for becoming more productive.

PASS Summit 2014 Speaker Idol—Judging You, Part I

Nov 13, 2014   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, DLBlog, Fun, Speaking, SQL Server  //  No Comments

PASS Summit Judges/Judgey Table Sign

This year we had a new item at the 2014 PASS Summit: Speaker Idol. Run by Denny Cherry ( blogs | @mrdenny ), this is a contest where people who have never been selected to speak at Summit get the opportunity to win a golden ticket (an automatic speaking slot) at Summit 2015. To win, speakers must put together a 5 minute lightning talk, then impress the judges more than any other speaker in the competition.

I competed in a similar contest at TechEd two years ago. The difficult part about this is there are no criteria for which you can prepare. You don’t know what the judges think are good habits or what topics they might enjoy. They might even give conflicting advice. It takes a lot of courage to stand up in front of a crowd, give your presentation, then be critiqued by others in front of a crowd.

A few of us judges are blogging today about the things we commented on to the presenters:

Denny Cherry discusses the overall process used to put it all together

Joey D’Antoni focused mostly on physical presence while speaking

If others blog, I’ll update this post with links.

Today I’m going to continue on with Joey’s theme of physical presence.

Move, But Don’t Wander

It’s really difficult when you are stressed or nervous to get the timing and location of moving around right. Some people hug the lectern as if they are on flight experiencing extreme turbulence. Others pace back and forth like a caged animal hungry for fresh meat. At some conferences at Summit, this is compounded by a speaker set up where there’s a table, a lectern and several chairs. The AV equipment is often taped or strapped down so that your laptop must be located on the lectern. I find this annoying because presenting isn’t the same as giving a speech. Presenting and training involve more discussions with the audience and need more engagement than just speaking at a group of people.

The raised podium effect also means that moving around can lead to falling off the stage. Not a good thing.

Joey gave advice to stand with your feet together. I usually give other advice: stand with your feet shoulder’s width apart, then move your feet about 3 inches further apart. This sort of forces you to stay put for a while because it feels slightly off, but not enough to make it feel awkward. It’s harder to move out of that stance and it tends to be a more powerful, competent looking to the audience. Move around to ensure you aren’t blocking the same audience members for your whole presentation. Move to show that you and the audience are working together to learn.

Remember: pacing back and forth is bad, but taking a few steps in a variety of directions can help you engage different members of the audience. Have a purpose when you move.

A Mic Changes Everything

Most speakers would prefer not to use a microphone. A hand mic plus a remote means both our hands are tied up. A lavaliere mic (one that clips on your shirt and has a pack that has to be stuck in a pocket or worn in the back) means everything you do or say is being amplified. But when sessions are recorded, broadcast or in large rooms, audio equipment is mandatory.

One of the more common mistakes the speakers made was leaning forward then turning their heads to read the slides on the screen. This meant that as they were talking, they were talking away from the mic. We judges were in the front row and I had a hard time hearing what was said.

The trick is to turn your whole body when you are mic-ed up. Do this even when you are turning to speak to an audience member and to highlight something on the screen.

Remember: The audio portion of your presentation is just as important as the visuals. Probably even more important.

Don’t Read Your Slides to the Audience

This is a tough habit to break, especially if you are running short on time. It’s the most common feedback I hear from people who are attending sessions and are frustrated by the speaker. This is especially common with lightning talks because time is so limited. If you read your slides to the audience, you are basically showing them that you don’t really need to be there speaking. You could just email blast out your slides and be sitting in the bar enjoying a conference-themed beverage.

One of the ways to break this habit is to have fewer words on your slides. More on this later.

Another way is to have speaker notes that you can see when you are presenting. These should have different words/bullet points and that will force you to explain things in different words. PowerPoint shows these notes when you are in presentation mode.

The best way to break this habit, though, is to not look at your slides when you speak. Look at the audience. Engage with them. Offer insights into what is on the slides, but do that while having a conversation with the audience.

Remember: You are there to give insights and to engage with the audience. Your slides are there to support that, not the other way around.


One of the more interesting things about being a judge is that we all talked about how we are also guilty of many of these speaker vices.  We recognized that while we were giving all this advice, we all needed to take care when we presented, too.  I’m sure it was difficult for the contestants to be judged in public.  It was difficult for us doing that as well.

I’ve blogged about what to do when something goes wrong during your presentation, but I’ll be blogging about those things and more as part of this series.  I’ll be talking about equipment, preparation and delivery. Plus being judge-y Smile.

10 Tips for the Minimalist DBA

Dec 3, 2013   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Data, Database, DLBlog, SQL Server  //  4 Comments

Title Slide Minimalist DBA

It seems that there’s so much to learn when you are first working as a production DBA.  What do you focus on first?  How should you prioritize your learning? What things should you automate and measure?  What skills are core to your job, no matter how long you’ve been a DBA.  These are the things that we think that all production DBAs need to know and continue to build upon.

In our DBA Fundamentals presentation on The Minimalist Guide to Database Administration, Thomas LaRock ( blog | @sqlrockstar )and I (@datachick)  discussed the core skills one should have when filling a DBA role. That presentation has been recorded (I will update here when it is posted).  I hope you were able to join us or will stop by and watch the recording.

10 Tips for the Minimalist DBA

  1. Protecting your data is your number one job.  I’m betting that no one else in the company has a to-do list to protect the company’s data.  Maybe someone at the strategic level, but not to actually ensure it’s available when it needs to be.  That means your first job is to ensure backups and recovery are working.  Test your backups, test your restores.  The first thing I do on new projects is to ask about the backup and recovery configurations.  I once found that the production system had not been backed up for more than five years, even though everyone else thought it was backed up daily.  Don’t just ask.  Go look.
  2. Don’t waste time alerting yourself of things that don’t require a reaction.  You may be tempted to set up alerts so that you get an email and a text message to notify you every time a backup successfully completes.  Or when your online monitor finds your database upright and smiling.  However, that soon leads to alert blindness.  You will miss the real alerts that you need to do something about.  Hard drive getting full? Response times approaching ice age times?  Those are things you’ll need to be ready to deal with.
  3. The best DBA is a lazy DBA.  Not a sleepy DBA, but a DBA that automates as much as you can. Think of this as a Driven, Lazy DBA (DLDBA). Do you have tasks that take 15 minutes to do, require no human decisions and that you have to do multiple times a week? Those are automation candidates.  Be lazy so that you can spend your already overscheduled time on tasks that need your awesome data professional skills.
  4. You can’t manage what you don’t measure.  If you don’t know it exists, or whether it is still up and running, you will be stuck in a perpetual firefighting mode.  Tom thinks that firefighters would make great DBAs, but that doesn’t mean that great DBAs are in 24/7 firefighting mode.  It’s also good to understand what’s the best way to measure these things. Almost all measurement consumes resources.  Do you understand what make sense for each case?
  5. You need to understand the basics of all kinds of things.  Always be learning and looking forward. Just because we picked a few things to focus on doesn’t mean you can ignore all the rest.  You need to build your basic literacy of things that aren’t your primary responsibility.  Storage basics, database design methods and practices, web services, development tools and methods…yes, there’s a lot.  Start with the things that are causing your databases the most pain and work out from there.  It’s sometimes a bit overwhelming when you attend a conference or pick up a book and realize how much you just don’t know enough about.  In fact, there’s a name for this: the Dunning-Kruger effect.  The more you know, the more realize how much you don’t know.  The only way to deal with this is to always be learning and looking forward.  Sure, there are some people making RAID-loads of money supporting COBOL and IMS systems, but overall staying afraid of new technologies like cloud, NoSQL, BI, and big data is going to keep you blissfully ignorant.
  6. You must practice everything while your database isn’t burning. It’s not enough to watch a one hour presentation on how backups and restores work.  It’s not enough to download a script.  You need to get in-depth, hands-on experience doing these things. Not just a one time in a class thing, but practice with real world situations and data.  You need to schedule that time to do this. And your boss needs to support this.  Then you need to practice with intentional errors.  What happens when the time on the server is messed up?  What happens when you don’t have the right log files?  What do you do if the SAN is down?  Where are your restore procedures and checklists documented?  You don’t want to be “learning on the job” when your PHB boss is standing beside you and there’s smoke coming out of the server.
  7. Writing stuff down is good. It’s Agile even. The Agile software method calls for the right amount of documentation.  Many read this as “no documentation”, but they are wrong. Yes, sometimes to you can just walk over and ask the person who set up the job why they did something, but on my projects that person has moved on to 6 more teams since I last saw him.  I recommend using wikis or SharePoint collaboration areas for these things, so that they are all in the same place and can be accessed with any device.  By the way, do you know if your documentation is backed up? Redundantly available?  Restores aren’t just for databases.
  8. The more you install, the more you have to manage and troubleshoot. Install only what you need.  Of course, that may mean looking a bit forward for planned uses, but there’s no need to install everything “just in case”. You might even want to look at Server Core as an option, since it has a tiny footprint, requires less management and you can still use your remote GUI tools to manage it.
  9. Don’t be the one that panics. Practice and documentation mitigate stress and panic.  This is where all your laziness, planning, testing and learning pay off.  You’ve seen the guy that sits in front of a server, rapidly pulling cables, pushing buttons, running scripts and wizards and has no idea that he’s making things worse.  Don’t be that guy.  The more calm you are, the better job you’ll do.  And the more calm everyone else will be.
  10. Empathy is a highly-valued trait. For users, for other data professionals, for everyone. Empathy isn’t sympathy or feeling bad for others.  It’s about understanding what their pain points are and why they feel the way they do.  If you can reflect that empathy, work will be easier and progress towards a common goal can be made.  If you come at all issues with a zero-sum game approach, you’re going to have issues getting in the way of doing your job.

We also listed these links as great places to find more information about these skills or to practice them:

What advice did you wish you’d had years ago?   What else should a minimalist DBA know about?

Preview to Tuesday, 7 February Webinar on Tailoring Data Models

Feb 7, 2012   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Data, Data Modeling, Database, Snark, Speaking  //  No Comments

Here’s a preview data model for my webinar on 7 February (yes, today!) at 1PM EST.  My topic is Help your Business Love its Data (Models): Tailoring Data Models for your Audience and it’s Part 2 of a three part serious on Getting Down to Business, sponsored by CA.



It’s free to register at

This is what I’ll be covering:

7 Feb 2012
1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. EST

Duration 60 min.

There’s no one data model hiding in your modeling tool. There are actually thousands of them – not just multiple data model files, but different views and presentations of the same data model, each one ready to be used by different purposes and outcomes. In this session, Karen Lopez will discuss the steps in of preparing and presenting the “right” data model for the right audience, as well as making them accessible via the web. We will also cover the 10 tips for ensuring that your audience is happy they attended the data model presentation and looks forward to attending the next one.

As usual for my presentations, this will have a bit of snark and talk about good things to do in business data models an show some anti-patterns for modeling, too.  That’s probably where the snark will come it.  Can’t guarantee it, but it sounds about right.

Bring your ideas about tailoring the presentations  of data models or any type of design.  Oh, and if you have any action figures, bring those, too.

Uploading Large Documents to SharePoint

Dec 22, 2010   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog  //  2 Comments

These are my recommend actions for uploading large-ish documents to SharePoint, since I get many support requests about this, usually late in the night when I’m not expected to be working.  I’m hoping that Dr. Google and Nurse Bing can help those people struggling with how to get their midnight-oil-generated documents uploaded.

SharePoint Document Library Upload Document If you are getting upload failures or timeouts when using a Document Library’s menu to upload a document, there are alternatives that may work out better for you.  However, whether or not you are able to use them is based on a few factors. First, the exact instructions are dependent on the version of SharePoint you are using.  The features I outline below are available in versions of SharePoint starting with 2003 (or WSS 3.0).  Second, they are dependent on how your installation of SharePoint is configured by the administrators.   So while there are no guarantees that these will work, they are certain worth trying.

The default maximum file size for SharePoint is 50MB.  If your document or file is larger than that, your administrator will have configure SharePoint to accept larger sized files.  You could, though, try these workarounds to get is uploaded

  1. Make multiple smaller files out of the larger file in order to get it uploaded while you wait on your administrator to adjust the configuration. 
  2. Zip the file, which depending on the format of the file, could significantly reduce the size of the file.

But you do have other options, again dependent on how your document library and SharePoint server are configured. 

Email the document to the Document Library

If the document library has been configured to receive mail, you can upload the document by just sending an e-mail to that library if that has been configured.  Note that each library will have a separate e-mail address so you’ll need to look it up.  Do so by clicking on Settings on the library toolbar, then choose Document Library Settings:


Document Library Settings

From there you’ll see basic information about the library:

Document Library Settings image

I’ve blurred out some of my information, but the e-mail address list will be a full e-mail address.  If you copy that from the list and put it in the TO: field of an e-mail, you can attach the file and send it to the document library.  Make sure that the file and the subject line of your e-mail are meaningful as they may be used in populating some of the fields in the library.

There are some gotchas with this method:

  1. Your e-mail server may be configured to restrict sending of documents over a certain size, so this e-mail method may not work.
  2. Just like blocked files in SharePoint, your e-mail services may block attachments with certain extensions.

Use the File Explorer Method

SharePoint also offers another method for getting files into a document library: using a file explorer interface.

To use this method, go to the document library and choose ACTIONS, then Open with Windows Explorer:

Actions Open with Windows Explorer image

You’ll need to use Internet Explorer for this option to show up. If you are using any other browser, you won’t see all those options, including the Open with Windows Explorer.

A normal explorer window will open and you can drag and drop your file into the library, just like you were copying a file between any other two folders.  You may first be promoted to supply your login again.

Don’t place the document in the Forms folder.


Drag and drop

Once that has completed, you’ll need to go back to the library and update the fields for that document.

Document Library

Special Note: You may also be having problems uploading a file if it has an extension that is blocked from being uploaded by the SharePoint Administrator.  It is common for certain file types to be restricted in order to reduce the risk to other SharePoint users.  None of the above techniques will work if the extension of the document has been blocked.

Connect to Outlook

There is another method of linking the SharePoint document library to Outlook, but I personally don’t like that method because every time I open Outlook I am promoted to log in.  This isn’t just for uploading, but for working with SharePoint items from within Outlook. You can set this up by going again to ACTIONS, then Connect to Outlook:



You will receive several prompts and warnings which you will need to agree to before finally being prompted by Outlook to configure the synchronization.  Since this blog post is only about uploading a document and not synching files between Outlook and SharePoint, I’ll point you to Microsoft’s information about Connect to Outlook.  It might be worth a try if the other methods still don’t work for you.

I hope one of these methods worked for you.  If you’ve found other methods, please leave them in the comments.

Finally, if you still aren’t able to get the file uploaded, it’s time to contact your SharePoint administrator.  She or he will need the following information:

  1. The size of the document.
  2. The format/file extension of the document
  3. The browser and version you are using
  4. The Operating System you are using (XP, Vista, Windows 7, Linux, etc.)
  5. The link to the document library you are trying to upload to
  6. The exact error message you are receiving (Screen shots are best)
  7. Description of your internet connection (wireless, cable, dial-up)
  8. User ID you used to log in to SharePoint
  9. The approximate date and time (with time zone) you were experiencing the issue

The more information you can provide, the faster someone can help you get the fi

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