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An interview with Robin Dewson

By Jon Winer,

An Interview with Robin Dewson, author of Beginning SQL Server 2000 Programming.

Robin Dewson has been working with Wrox Press for over two years now as a technical reviewer and recently was invited to provide additional material for Professional Access 2000, Professional Access with SQL Server 2000, Professional SQL Server with DTS and Professional SQL Server 2000. He has built up a good rapport with Wrox Press over this time and from his working experience was invited to write this book concerning SQL Server 2000.

Robin is currently consulting at Lehman Brothers in the City of London using Visual Basic 6 and Sybase on a trading system called Kojak, where he has been for nearly 5 years. When he has a spare moment, he is also beta testing .NET technologies and is looking forward to the next generation of technologies.

How did you come to write this book?

Having worked with Wrox for around 2 years I noticed a gap in their titles surrounding SQL Server. Combing this with the knowledge that many people want to move to SQL Server from other databases, I approached Wrox with the idea, and they gave me the go-ahead to create a proposal. From there things just snowballed and out came the book!

When and why did you start using SQL Server?

I started using SQL Server with version 6.5 a few months before version 7 came out. I had become disillusioned with Visual FoxPro, and knew Access was not the correct route. I had toyed with SQL Anywhere, the desktop Sybase application, and saw the limitations there. I wasn't sure SQL Server was the right product but knew that with my knowledge of Visual Basic, this Microsoft product was going to grow. Therefore getting in as soon as I could to SQL Server could never be a bad choice.

Why should developers choose to use SQL Server 2000?

You can learn SQL Server on a simple desktop PC, or a notebook, and any solution built on these machines can be instantly scaled to any size of enterprise solution that exists. By using a strong GUI interface, beginners can get to grips quickly with SQL Server, and start unleashing the full power that lies within almost immediately. I strongly believe that SQL Server is the easiest database for a new developer to become accustomed to and start developing solutions quickly.

…And what are in your opinion the Major Improvements from SQL Server 7.0?

Most people would expect me to say XML. Although a major improvement, industry is not taking up XML as fast as perhaps it should or could. However, more and more companies will see the benefits of XML and move towards it. So, in my opinion, indexed views are probably the greatest advance that a beginner will benefit from. However, there is not one improvement that cannot be seen as a major improvement, including the documentation help!

You mention XML - SQL Server 2000 is the first version to incorporate the capacity to use XML. Could you explain why is this a significant development and what you think the future holds for this area?

This is a significant development as it allows the ability to publish self describing data to other recipients. Also the ability to produce XML output on a web page very easily is a major improvement for web-based solutions. I see XML usage expanding greatly in the next 12 months as more and more companies take on SQL Server 2000 and wish to publish data not only on the web but also between other recipients who can deal with XML data.

You devote two of the later chapters in the book to stored procedures. What are these and why are they so important?

Stored procedures are tools for grouping transaction SQL statements together into a single unit of execution. They can be compiled and so run faster than running the SQL statements by any other method. They also give a developer the ability to make their database secure. All of this is covered within the book - covering a stored procedures importance is something a reader of my book should really take time over.

What do you think makes Beginning SQL Server 2000 Programming stand out from other books on the market – is there anything that you are particularly proud of?

Where I feel this book differs from others is that all the areas within the book are covered in a simple but straightforward fashion without demeaning the intelligence of the reader. For example, in Query Analyzer every option is shown so that the reader is aware of all the items on menu's, toolbars and so on. Moving on from that base point, this theme was carried throughout the book. Many actions within SQL Server can be dealt with in more than one way, that is one of the major plus points of SQL Server, its flexibility. I am proud that the book shows all of these ways so the reader can make choices at all times within the book to the way they want to work, rather than being told or led one particular way. There is no one area I am proud of. I am immensely proud of the whole book and everyone involved in the process that made it such, from the unsung technical reviewers, to the hard worked Technical Editors. Everyone listed within that front cover worked as a team and each deserve credit.

After covering the basics of SQL Server, your book takes us through designing, setting up and managing a database. What would you say were the most important considerations for each of these stages?

Taking your time and getting it right. At each stage check your work. Getting the design right is crucial to the success of any project and constant review even once the system is live, ensuring that your well designed and implemented solution stays running smoothly. Never rush any stage. Create a solid test plan. Keep good documentation.

Are there any improvements you would like to see in future editions of SQL Server?

Better image insertion and retrieval. In this day and age of the internet, images stored to be displayed on pages, image retrieval is not good. Macros would be good, but also I would love to see this ported to Unix/Linux (not an easy task!) Finally, database diagrams imported and exported as UML so that they can be placed in tools like ERWin.

If you could write/have written any other book, either fact or fiction, what book would it be and why?

If we could transport back in time to the 30's then I would love to write a script for a Laurel and Hardy film, so not so much a book. Why? Sad as many may think, they were masters of slapstick. Even now they make me laugh and I am glad to see, they are enjoyed by all three of my children, from 3 years old to 9 years old (my wife doesn't appreciate such humour I am sad to say). Anyone that can master an art as they did deserve credit. Hence the "Laurel and Hardy" squirrels within the book as chapter dividers.

What are your plans and ambitions for the next year?

I have just bought a saxophone so I would love to play the "Pink Panther" theme tune by Christmas. On the computer side, I hope to become an expert in .Net, and also try and at least get to a reasonable stage with Java. Of course, if Wrox were kind enough to give me another chance, I would love to do some more writing. Hard as it was, it was enjoyable. Finally I plan to see a lot more games of my beloved rugby club, Bedford, this season!


Want to read more about Wrox Press and their authors, check out our review of 'SQL Server 2000 Database Design'.

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