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Life Without a Net

By Rodney Landrum,

On a recent trip to Vancouver, I bought a book, called "Live without a Net". Each of the stories within imagines life without the Internet, and asks portentous questions such as, "What would you do? What would you fear? What wouldn't you know?" I am sure many of us can remember life without the Internet, you know, c.1990-91. In an ironic twist of fate, I sit at my desk today contemplating the aforementioned book and a bust cable modem, and am forced to reacquaint myself with that reality. It is a humbling experience.

My intent had been to write a short piece that picked over the different feature sets of the various SQL Server editions. I have opened my browser three times now, just out of habit, but the truth is that if someone were to ask me, right now, what features are missing from SQL Server Express Edition, I would have to say, "Let me get back to you on that."

Sitting here, without the ability to browse, forces me to recollect what it was like back in the pre-Internet days, when learning always meant "doing first hand". I can picture myself then, loading up a Novel server by floppy disk (20 of them I think), or logging into a UNIX terminal and fervently reading all of the MAN pages I could find, whilst chuckling quieting at the notion of a "MAN page". If someone had stopped me in a corridor, back then, and asked me an arcane TCP/IP question, such as how to retrieve an unknown MAC address remotely using ARP, I could have told them without a pause.

I was enthusiastic, compelled by knowledge of technology and a desire to share my findings, much like I am now, but I worry that the Internet has made me lazier. I am, of course, thankful that the information exists now, for me to grab when necessary but my fear is that the Internet has just become an extension of me; a piece of offsite storage that I trust will be there when I need it. And I find I need it more and more every day. Perhaps I should update my resume to say, “SSIS, SSRS, cluster administration, performance tuning, and strong ability to look up any answer I do not know, or have not retained since the last lookup.”

No, darn it, where is that old SQL Server Express CD? I'll answer this question the old-fashioned way!

…But wait, the front door! My wife has returned with the new modem…

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