I attended PASS conference last week at Grapevine, Texas. It was my first time attending PASS conference. Overall it was excellent. I highly recommend it to any SQL Server DBA and/or developers.
Networking, networking, and networking
More than any sessions that I attended, networking is the single most valuable thing I got out of this conference. The majority of people are extremely nice and easy to talk to. I met a lot of people I knew virtually, like Brian Knight, Steve Jones, and Andy Warren.
I also met fellow authors like Chris Hedgate
, Kathi Kellenberger
, Randy Dyess
, Dale Elizabeth Corey
. It was very nice talking to all of them, being able to relate, swap stories and ideas. It is just refreshing to get perspectives from other people that you don't normally get from the routine of your daily grind.
In addition, I also met other people outside of SSC, who are active in PASS or SQL Server community in general. I met Chuck Heinzleman, who graciously introduced me to many other PASS volunteers like Louis Davidson, Wayne Snyder, who gave a very nice talk on volunteerism. I also met and talked to quite a few more people who I read about, like Christoph Stotz, Rick Heiges, Rushabh Mehta, James Luetkehoelter, Don Kiely, Bill Graziano, Mark Caldwell and many more.
I also talked to a lot of PSS guys, like Bob Ward, Ken Henderson, Bob Dorr, and PSS support guys. Bob is a great guy, easy to talk to, and are genuinely interested in knowing customers questions and concerns. I asked Ken about some programming questions and pointers on learning more. Bob Dorr gave a very nice session on UML, rebranded as SQLOS.
It is also nice to meet a few DBAs/Developers from the rest part of the world. Being a transplanted Chinese currently living in Chicago area, I always have great fascination and appreciation of people from different places and the culture and diversity they bring. I talked with people from the UK, Canada, Sweden, Germany, Japan. I am sure there are people from other parts of the world that I didn't get a chance to talk to. I had many interesting conversations with people from Sweden, Chris and Sara (sorry I forgot your last name) in particular, where I felt I really learned a lot from them.
Also, on opening night, I attended SSC reception. There was a huge crowd and it was lots of fun, with casino games like Blackjack, Poker, and lots of other fun things going on. A lot of people won cool prizes like games, iPods, etc. So make sure to use SSC's registration code when you register next year . You will then get invited to the party and be merry.
I also met a lot of other fellow DBAs/Developers. If you have my business card, feel free to contact me. I ran out my business cards in the first 2 days. I will need to remember to bring more next time;)
Other than networking, there were interesting sessions offered daily. Overall, I think sessions from PSS (Bob Ward, Ken Henderson, and Bob Dorr) on troubleshooting, SQLDiag, ReadTrace, Relog, SQLOS, DMV are very interesting. It was nice to see the demos and I will spend more time learning more of those.DMVs will be big in SQL Server 2005. I will need to learn more on that.
I also attended Brian Knight and Bayer White's session on security and SQL injection. It was very interactive and engaging. I learned a lot from that session. It is good to see the various ways of doing string manipulation for injection attack. I remember that during my reading of Writing Secure Code, a great book, by the way, one phrase that got my attention is that "All inputs are evil". The moral of the story is that all input should be validated before they are taken for processing.
Randy Dyess did a great talk on Execution Plans. Randy has a great sense of humor that I like. He also graciously showed me some tips and tricks in working on his blogs and web sites. Alex Cheng also did a few popular query tuning sessions but I didn't go because of time constraints.
Christian Wade's talk on CLR and TSQL tricks was very interesting. I learned a lot from it. I liked his demos because I can see what his development environment looks like. It is always nice to see a good developer/DBA in action because you can learn a lot by looking at the shortcuts they use, the way they customize their IDE to improve productivity, etc.
PSS labs and Upgrade Hands on lab
The conference also set up PSS labs on common SQL Server issues. In addition, there were also labs for upgrade and new SQL Server 2005 features. They were all nice to go through. Unfortunately, I ran out of time. I wish I had more time to go over them.
The Gaylord convention center is a very nice place. It is huge and got about at least 3 conferences going on at the time, including PASS. The downside I found was that Session rooms, exhibit hall, PSS lab, volunteer meetings, upgrade lab were very widely dispersed. Some were in the hotel, some were in the convention center. It would have been nice if all meeting rooms, labs, exhibit halls were located centrally. But overall, I had a blast and hopefully I will be there again next year.