In this issue:

Tech News : General Interest

Tech News : Security

Tech News : The Lighter Side

SQL Server News

Microsoft News : General Interest

Microsoft News : Security

Hardware News

Blogs : Administration

Blogs : Big Data

Blogs : Computing in the Cloud

Blogs : Deep Into Windows

Blogs : DMO/SMO/Powershell

Blogs : Excel

Blogs : Hardware

Blogs : High Availability/Disaster Recovery

Blogs : Integration Services/ETL

Blogs : Performance and Tuning

Blogs : Professional Development

Blogs : Security and Auditing

Blogs : T-SQL

Database Weekly - www.databaseweekly.com

The Complete Weekly Roundup of SQL Server News

Hand-picked content to sharpen your professional edge

SQL Server News for 2013-04-15

SQL Developer Bundle 12 essential tools for database professionals
The SQL Developer Bundle contains 12 tools designed with the SQL Server developer and DBA in mind. Try it now.
SQL DBA Bundle ‘Six Scary SQL Surprises’
Brent Ozar joins the DBA Team, for Lesson 3 of their ‘Top 5 Hard-earned Lessons’. Gain valuable tips from the pros - Read now.
SQL Data Generator How do you generate test data for your database?
SQL Data Generator quickly populates databases with intelligent and meaningful test data. "SQL Data Generator is simple and effective." Michael Gaertner, Quintech. Download a free trial now.
Editorial - Bad Data Costs Lives

Database professionals soon learn, by experience, a great respect for the need for quality in the data. I remember vividly the time I first learned this lesson, while building applications for dealers on the London Metal Exchange. One of my SUM aggregations returned the wrong answer (double entry bookkeeping caught the error). Due to a slight problem with the BCD Math package I was using, the grand total was a couple of pennies out in totals of around 5 million pounds. Jokingly, I offered to pay the Stockbroker the difference but he was horrified, "Either data is right or it is wrong. There is no in-between. Get it right!"

It's a lesson that stayed with me. In this case, we were dealing with exact measurements and, if the data is 'good', we can trust the judgments we make based on its analysis, providing we get the calculations right. More generally, we live in a world of uncertainty, and have to be clear about the level of uncertainty when we present figures. Moreover, if data is 'bad', it is very difficult to 'cleanse' it in a way that we can rely on the calculations and decisions we derive from it. There is no magic cleansing agent in statistics. Unfortunately, there are cases where important decisions based on 'bad' or at least 'uncertain' data can cost lives, as was the case in the recent scandal that hit the UK Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

In the UK, hospitals receive a rank, on behalf of the government, based on their Hospital Standardized Mortality Ratios (HSMRs). In short, and as described in more detail here, hospitals attribute "diagnostic codes" to their patients based on the disorders and diseases from which they are suffering. The HSMRs derived from these codes aim to account for every important variable that determines whether a patient admitted to hospital lives or dies, so that what is left is a way to compare directly the quality of care across hospitals. The idea is that the low-ranking hospitals get an incentive to increase their quality of care, and the public can select the best hospital in their area.

It's a good idea, but reality got in the way. Firstly, the recording of the diagnosis for a patient is not always accurate. Last year, for example, the Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) data, which converts the hospitals records into internationally recognized ICD or OPCS coding, recorded that 16,992 of the 785,263 patients coded as having had "in-patient Obstetrics episodes" were male. Hmm. Wrong.

Even more worrying is what happens if a hospital decides that a low rank is not a problem with its care, but with its coding. For example, the "palliative care" code can have a significant impact in reducing HSMR. If a patient is assigned this code, allowances are made in the HSMR calculation to prevent hospitals from blame in cases where a patient's life cannot be saved. The use of this code has increased, for valid reasons in many cases, but the fear is that hospitals can respond to poor rankings not with proper inspections and improved care procedures, but by disguising the true mortality rates with data 'cleansing' (recoding), so putting the lives of patients at risk.

The problem in mid-Staffordshire seems to be one of managers, monitoring quality of care at their hospitals, putting too much faith in data that was divorced from reality. The data said that mortality rates were low, in direct contradiction of the testimony of relatives of those who felt relatives had died unnecessarily, which went unheeded. "They must be wrong, because we have the data". When The Francis Report published, in February, the government spoke of a culture of 'metrics and league tables' in the way that hospitals are judged as a key factor in the scandal.

As database professionals, we are all too familiar with the concept of Bad Data, and have the experience to spot it and prevent its misuse. Indeed, perhaps it is time we took the lead in ensuring that the specialism of 'Data Scientist' is based on responsible use of data and respect for data quality.

Phil Factor.

» Join the debate, and respond to today's editorial on the forums


The Weekly News

All the headlines and interesting SQL Server information that we've collected over the past week, and sometimes even a few repeats if we think they fit. These headlines are gathered throughout the week and are posted in real time at the website. Check there for information throughout the week or enjoy this weekly summary of the SQL Server world.


Tech News : General Interest

If you make PCs and you’re not Lenovo, you might be in trouble - Incredible shrinking PC market posts largest quarterly decline since 1994....(more)

Google Reader's Last Product Manager Calls Its Shutdown a Missed Opportunity - Had Google kept Reader alive, Shih said, the company could have realized two main benefits: The product, he said, could have been used as a testing ground, or mini R&D lab, for Google’s social initiatives. And, had Google let Reader continue to evolve, Shih believes it could have turned into a viable solution to information overload....(more)

Tech News : Security

April Patch Tuesday Is the Least of IT's Problems - Talking with us about Microsoft's April Patch Tuesday and other security concerns for IT administrators this week, security and forensic analyst Paul Henry warns that Apache server software is being used to facilitate drive-by malware attacks. The attacks are very dynamic, making it difficult for the security community to detect, let alone resolve....(more)

PostgreSQL database fixes “persistent denial-of-service” bug - Maintainers of the PostgreSQL open-source database have patched a vulnerability that allowed attackers to corrupt files and in some cases, execute malicious code on underlying servers....(more)

Tech News : The Lighter Side

The Database Master - Concerned about the database's growth pattern, Maurice asked the "Database Master's" advice......(more)

SQL Server News

End of Extended Lifecycle Support for SQL Server 2000 Service Pack 4 - SQL Server 2000 SP4 will no longer receive assisted support or security updates from Microsoft after the end of the extended support date, April 9th; 2013....(more)

Microsoft News : General Interest

Obscure setting gives users more control over Windows auto-reboots - As part of April's Black Tuesday, Microsoft released a patch that gives Windows 8 users a little more control over how and when Windows reboots. Too bad Microsoft forgot to mention that change in the patch's KB article....(more)

Microsoft News : Security

Two-factor authentication finally heading to Microsoft Accounts - Microsoft Accounts—the credentials used for Hotmail, Outlook.com, the Windows Store, and other Microsoft services—will soon offer two-factor authentication to ensure that accounts can't be compromised through disclosure of the password alone....(more)

Hardware News

Waiting for a 1TB SSD below $1 per GB? Crucial says wait no more - New M500 drives are out, topping out at 960GB for $599...(more)

Intel brings Haswell microarchitecture to servers with Xeon E3 chip - Intel announced new server chips on Tuesday, including the latest Xeon E3, which is the first server processor based on the company's latest Haswell microarchitecture. Intel's Xeon E3 chips are targeted at low-end servers and microservers, which are an emerging category of dense servers largely aimed at Web hosting and cloud implementations....(more)

Blogs : Administration

SQL Server Page Life Expectancy - So why do we care about BP volatility and PLE? What can knowing the BP volatility do for us? What is a "good" and "bad" PLE figure?...(more)

Discover, Diagnose, and Document ALL Your SQL Servers On Your Coffee Break - Kendal Van Dyke presents his new SQL Server "power doc" tool....(more)

Monitoring Blocked Processes Report with Event Notifications - Dmitri Korotkevitch on use of Event Notification for the BLOCKED_PROCESS_REPORT event. The approach uses Service Broker and an activation stored procedure to parse the blocking report....(more)

Top 10 Reasons I Like Postgres Over SQL Server - Ten reasons Rob Sullivan prefers Postgres, starting with "SQL Server still to this day deploys pessimistic concurrency out of the box"......(more)

Blogs : Big Data

Enter the Big Data Matrix: analyzing meanings and relations of everything (1/2) - Using single value decomposition to look at meaning of words from different angles and so extract meanings and relations from text....(more)

Blogs : Computing in the Cloud

NoSQL Data in the Cloud with Windows Azure Tables - Being able to store lots of data economically solves only half the problem. The data has become so large and complex that traditional database management tools and data processing applications are vastly inadequate....(more)

Healthcare Data on the Cloud – The Reality of Sensitive Information Online - Secure any organization’s sensitive data, including consumer healthcare data, before it is sent to the cloud...(more)

Warning: Lost my stored Azure credential details in SSMS after applying CU3 + Hotfix - Greg Low on how he applied CU3 and the hotfix, only to find that all stored credential details for SQL Servers was gone. That was particularly nasty for all his Azure-related logons....(more)

Batching Techniques for SQL Database Applications in Windows Azure - Batching operations to SQL Database significantly improves the performance and scalability of cloud services in Windows Azure. This paper first demonstrates the effectiveness of batching. It then covers the techniques, scenarios, and considerations to help you to use batching successfully in your cloud services. ...(more)

Blogs : Deep Into Windows

Debugging in Production Part 1 – Analyzing 100% CPU Usage Using Windbg - Marks S. Rasmussen's story of how a simple oversight resulted in a tough to catch bug. In this series he will look at analyzing 100% CPU usage using Windbg....(more)

Blogs : DMO/SMO/Powershell

Accepting Arguments for PowerShell Functions: Best Practices - Passing a value to a Windows PowerShell function? Use the automatic variable $args. ...(more)

Get the Active Power Plan of Multiple Servers with PowerShell - It is a widely known and discussed performance hit when you don’t have an optimal power plan set on your database servers. This is one of those easy ways to get great gains by simply flicking a switch…almost literally. But what happens if you have hundreds or thousands of servers under your responsibility?...(more)

Blogs : Excel

Exploring Excel 2013 for BI Tip #6: GeoFlow–The Latest Excel Visualization - Steve Hughes explores Tours and Scenes in the preview of a new add-in for Excel 2013, called GeoFlow....(more)

GeoFlow Public Preview Available - Chris Webb with the big news from the PASS BA Conference: the public preview for GeoFlow is now available, an addin for Excel 2013 that allows you to visualise your data on a 3D map, to zoom in and explore that data, and record ‘tours’ of this data....(more)

Blogs : Hardware

A SQL Server Hardware Tidbit a Day – Day 11 - Glenn Berry discusses what you should consider from a hardware perspective when you are trying to increase the basic resiliency and availability of an individual database server. ...(more)

SQLIOSim Checksum Validations - Bob Dorr explains the SQLIOSIM.exe, checksum validation logic....(more)

Hyper-Threading Performance - Joe Chang tests out Hyper-threading and finds that, overall, it is a significant positive for performance. There are unexpected characteristics so it is important to collect sufficient performance data for HT off and on, so that anomalies can be investigated. It is also important to have data on query performance at a range of DOP values....(more)

Cache Size and the Importance of the L2 and L3 Caches - In Part 9 of his one-a-day series, Glenn Berry explains why the performance of SQL Server, like most other relational database engines, has a huge dependency on the size of the L2 and L3 caches....(more)

Blogs : High Availability/Disaster Recovery

SQL 2012 AlwaysOn Availability groups Automatic Failover doesn’t occur or does it – A look at the logs - Denzil Ribeiro, Sr. SQL Premier Field Engineer, exposes the different logs available in troubleshooting AlwaysOn Availability group issues....(more)

Blogs : Integration Services/ETL

SSIS gotcha – Regional Settings can affect your expressions - Jamie Thomson recently stumbled across a nuance of the SSIS expression language concerned with casting of datetime values using the SSIS expression language....(more)

Blogs : Performance and Tuning

Implicit Conversions that cause Index Scans - Jonathan Kehayias maps out the most common data types and the effect of a column-side implicit conversion for creating an index seek versus an index scan....(more)

Monitoring Transactional Replication in SQL Server - If you using replication in SQL Server, you can monitor it in SSMS, but it makes sense to monitor distribution jobs automatically, especially if you can set up alerts or even set up first-line remedial action when a problem is detected. Francis shows how to do it in TSQL as an agent job....(more)

Staggering SQLIO Sessions Across Multiple Volumes - If you plan to use multiple volumes for a SQL Server deployment with multiple volumes present, it is important to know the performance of each volume and the point in which adding those volumes into the mix leads to internal contention. Jason Strate shows how, with PowerShell with SQLIO....(more)

Sample Size and the Duration of UPDATE STATISTICS: Does It Matter? - For most DBAs, the biggest consideration may be when to run the UPDATE STATISTICS statement. But DBAs also decide, consciously or not, the sample size for the update. The sample size selected can affect the performance of the actual update, as well as the performance of queries....(more)

Managing SQL Server Statistics - Accurate statistics about the data held in tables are used to provide the best execution strategy for SQL queries. but if the statistics don't accurately reflect the current contents of the table you'll get a poorly-performing query. How do you find out if statistics are correct, and what can you do if the automatic update of statistics isn't right for the way a table is used? ...(more)

3 Things You Need to Stop Doing to Your Database Server - Jes Borland describes just three of the valuable lessons she has learned from working with SQL Server. Finding the root cause of a performance problem and solving it is a much better long-term solution than breaking out the duct tape....(more)

Blogs : Professional Development

T-SQL Tuesday #41 - Presenting Opens Doors - Kendal Van Dyke on a journey that started with a terrible presentation about the new XML features in SQL 2005....(more)

Blogs : Security and Auditing

Top 13 Mistakes and Missteps in SQL Server – #5: SSMS Is A Weapon of Mass Destruction - Tim Ford on the need to deploy the magic word when someone asks for you to install Management Studio on a workstation, server, laptop, or gaming console they may have access to on your domain. That magic word is “No.”...(more)

Conor vs. SQL Injection - Conor Cunningham digs out a Microsoft best practice guidance document, on avoiding SQL Injection attacks....(more)

Blogs : T-SQL

Getting Started Testing Databases with tSQLt - There are several frameworks for assisting with the testing of SQL Server databases, but tSQLt is popular because it is written in TSQL and is simple for a database developer to set up and use. It doesn't get in the way. Rob Sheldon shows you how to get started. ...(more)


Administrative