Category: Pro Tips

Failure(s) and comfort zone

I wanted to cover some of the failures I have endured during the year. It’s not something you read a lot about from people and its important to talk about failure(s). I tend to mention my success’ but its also relevant to realise that there have been a number of failures in 2019.

I sat a number of Azure exams last year and failed on more than one occasion. I learned from this that no matter how much you study and put in you wont always have a successful outcome.

I wrote numerous blog posts which were sitting in my drafts folder for a long time which will never see the light of day.

I recorded umpteen videos which I never released and I still have them on my laptop, which again will never see the light of day.

I created PowerPoint presentations which yep you guessed it wont ever be used for talks.

I started numerous books and never finished a single book, was asked to review 3 or 4 books and again didn’t get the job done.

At times throughout the year I spread myself too thin and was trying to do too much, end result was the above.

Everyone has failure’s its part of becoming a better version of you.

As I reflect on this past 12 months its clear to me that failure is a good thing. Failure has taught me that each time I fail I learn something about myself which is key if you want to improve yourself.

Commitment
I have spent the last 2 years investing in myself, I commit myself to learning new skills and gain knowledge, with this comes failure, failure in my eyes means I am doing. It’s easy to say you want to do this or that but if your not actively doing something about it then it wont ever become a reality.

I have never given up after failing an exam or throwing away a presentation or a video, I use it to motivate myself to do better then next time, I keep the content as reminders.

The trick for me is to have goals, I write my goals on a piece of paper and have that pinned above my computer monitors on the wall. Last year I failed in only one goal and then this year I knocked it out the park, I kept the paper there until I had achieved that goal and now its been replaced with a new set of goals.

Stop holding yourself back
I stopped holding myself back, I used to think I’d love to do x or do y but I never truly thought I had anything to offer.
I spoke to some people at conferences who weren’t blogging but were right into tech and I suggested they should start, I wanted to say stop holding yourself back and just do it, they know they’re stuff and weren’t sure why they hadn’t been blogging.

I watched people speak at user groups and conferences and I thought wow I’d love to do that, I did nothing about it, I was holding myself back, scared I would make a fool of myself, I might still, but I am going to be going after it and see where it takes me.

Everyone has failures, you don’t hear about them, stop holding yourself back if that’s you, if your not failing regularly then perhaps your still in your comfort zone.


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Global Azure Bootcamp – Glasgow April 21st 2018

Saturday April 21st was the day for the Azure Global Bootcamp which say people attend user groups all around the world as you can see below, so we all spent a day as the Azure community learning all about Azure in many different ways from speakers all around the globe.

I took part and my talk was on learning Azure and becoming ready for the exams into the bargain.

 

 

 

As promised here are my slides:- HowToLearnAzure3

The Glasgow event was awesome and we also had Analben Mehta talking about serverless and Azure Functions and then we had Kenny Lowe talking about Azure Stack, great content and lunch and beers/soft drinks provided, all in all great to be apart of and hopefully people enjoyed they’re day.

Hope to see the people attended at the next Glasgow Azure User Group.



Tips for Deploying your .Net project

Over the last 20 years I’ve seen many a deployment, some good, some bad and the ugly, life’s too short for manual/long deployments.

Here is what I recommend

If you have manual steps in your deployments then stop it, now, no seriously, you can deploy with zero manual steps (clicking deploy doesn’t count).

What to do instead

Get yourself TeamCity, yes TeamCity, Jenkins is ok but you get what you pay for, trust me Jenkins isn’t TeamCity. Ok now that you have an excellent build server, you’ll want to script your builds, for this I liked using psake along with PowerShell, honestly people who don’t know PowerShell are missing out, its awesome.

So get your scripts together and kick the builds off from TeamCity using psake.

Unit Test your PowerShell Scripts

Using Pester you can unit test your PowerShell scripts, thus realising that their fragile or poorly written or just large function which are hard to test, well do yourself a favour and use pester to unit test them.
Pester also gives you code coverage for your PowerShell scripts

Deploy your app

To deploy any .Net app use Octopus Deploy, its easy, its painless, it deploys with error handling, rollback using transactions, and you can do blue/green deployments, if you want to deploy a previous release, one click, deploy to multiple environments, any previous version etc. all in one click.

Summary
To summarise, no more manual steps, no copying files, manually unzipping files, creating folders etc, – no need to do that, and leads to human error, highly recommend each of those tools.



Continuous Deployments for SQL Server – Part 4

Ok so we have seen in parts 1, 2, and 3 how to go about adding your database to source control, as well as comparing the schema and the data held within our SQL Server databases.

Its time to go about releasing changes made from one database to another (again think of you deploying changes from UAT to Production). There are several ways to go about releasing the changes, here are two of them:-

  • Script the schema and data changes as 2 separate scripts, which you can easily combine yourself.
  • Use Redgate SQL Packager and even create an .exe to run which will allow us to update the database.

Ok so let me demo how to go about using option two using Redgate SQL Packager which comes with the Redgate SQL Toolbelt.

Start up SQL Packager and you’ll see this start-up screen:-

packager1

I want to package an upgrade to a database so I have selected that option already, the next screen shows this:-
packager2

Above I have chosen my Database server and the database I want to use as the source and the target database (one we want to update).

Below shows the database objects I wish to package and apply on the target database.

packager3

Below shows the tables whose data I want to package and apply to the new database.

packager4

Below shows me the script that has been generated for me, first tab is the schema script, second tab is the data script and the third tab is for any warnings.

packager5

And the last screen gives us a choice to either package the change as a .exe, package it as a c# project, launch the script in SQL Query Analyser or Save the script for further inspection.

packager6

Choose option 1, run the exe and your database updates are complete, that’s all there is to it, any issues found the changes will be rolled back as they are transactional, leaving your database in tact.

Once complete, just run SQL Compare and SQL Data Compare and you can verify all is good – and viola, you’ve just updated production with schema and database changes, and you’ve been given a few different ways to do using RedGate SQL Toolbelt.



Lightning Talk – Top 10 Best Practices for Developers

Today at work, Friday 8th January, I gave a 5 minute lightning talk at work and I chose to talk about my list of top 10 best practices for developers, being 5 minutes I hadn’t much time but here is what I talked about with a little more meat on the bone in this blog post.

Keep your kills up to date

  • Use video websites like Pluralsight and the like to keep your skills relevant and up to date so you’re not left behind.
  • Read books
  • Have a blog
  • Use twitter to keep up to date when possible, it’s a fast paced world and its difficult to keep up to date so try to make time

Share your knowledge

  • If you hear about or read something of interest to colleagues pass it on
  • Share the new technologies you’ve looked at or some code you came across which is well written.
  • Give demo’s to your team mates and show them why this might be something worth learning etc.

Have good personal discipline

  • Check your code in regularly
  • Keep your check-ins small, don’t wait days before committing and don’t have one big check-in with hundreds of file changes if you can help it.
  • Keep an eye on your build server, try not to have broken builds for days, when you check-in check your code builds on the build server, don’t be lazy.
  • Tidy up as you go, don’t leave files, folders, backups etc. lying around.

Take an interest

  • Take part in code reviews, add your thoughts and comments.
  • Take part in team meetings, add your voice, don’t be silent.
  • Know your codebase, well as much of it as you can.
  • Know how everything works from writing code, building it, running the tests on the build server and also how does it get deployed, don’t leave it for others to do.

Test Everything

  • Write unit tests.
  • Write Integration tests.
  • Write front end tests.
  • Write tests for your build scripts.

Automate everything where possible

  • Automate Builds.
  • Automate Tests.
  • Automate Deployments.
  • We are engineers so automate, less manual steps the better.

  • Read other team members code.
  • Read code from Github, BitBucket etc.
  • Learn from other developers, there are plenty of great examples out there.

Document your processes

  • Document your build process.
  • Document your servers, accounts, permissions etc.
  • Think of the next developer, maybe a new employee how would they benefit from your documentation.
  • Limit technical debt – keep on top of your technical debt each sprint for example.

Leave the code in a better place than when you found it

  • Clean up your codebase, remove dead code, remove unused namespaces etc.
  • Remove or fix Skipped Tests.
  • Tools like ReSharper can help you clean up code in seconds.

Feedback

  • Feedback good or bad is important, from colleagues, your boss, your end users/customers.
  • Get Feedback on your software from people who use it day in day out.
  • Get Feedback from your build server, how long are the builds taking, how long do tests take to run.
  • Feedback is golden, and the beat way to improve.

Give Back

  • Do a lightning talk at work.
  • Do a presentation or a demo at work.
  • Giving back can be very rewarding.
  • Encourage people, don’t criticise or condemn.

It was fun doing it and I look forward to doing more talks soon.



Continuous Deployments for SQL Server – Part 3

In part 2, I covered how to compare the schemas of two databases, in part 3 I’ll to cover how to compare the data held within these two databases, for that I am going to use SQL Data Compare.

Again we will use the same two databases, imagine your comparing UAT to Production and wish to compare the data within these two databases:-

sqldatacompare1

sqldatacompare2

(If the links are too small click on the image and then when the new window appears click on Original size at 1896 × 316)

The above image shows us that the t_depot database table has 4 rows which are in the Stock_DB_Deisgn table which aren’t within the STOCK_DB_DESIGN_ORIGINAL database. Again same as with SQL Compare, if we now click on Synchronization wizard we will see the following screen:-

sqldatacompare3

And again as with SQL Compare, we get 2 options:-

  • Create a deployment script – use this option if you want to script the changes and review before running in the changes.
  • Synchronize Using SQL Data Compare – use this option if you want the tool to make the changes for you, you also get the option after its ran to automatically compare the 2 database data after the changes, to verify.

And that is it, easy, simple and straightforward, no manual steps involving creating scripts, no real chance for it to go wrong, plus once again you can source control the script if you really wanted to or share it with colleagues.

In part 4 I’ll cover how to deploy changes to your database whether its schema changes, data changes or both.



Continuous Deployments for SQL Server – Part 2

If you’re using SQL server at work and manually deploying changes to your database using manually crafted scripts then its time to stop, there is a better way to do this by automating it, remove the chance of human error, this will also ensure that before you deploy to production that your changes will work, guaranteed.

In this blog post, I’ll discuss comparing two SQL Server databases which you can use SQL compare to funnily enough compare them and see the differences between the two, very quickly and reliably, imagine you wanted to compare your local Development database with say your Staging database for example, or compare UAT to Production.

In this blog post I’ll go over the steps I went through and how to use Sql Compare to work out what’s changed between the two databases, schema wise, then in the second part I will show you how to use SQL Data Compare. to compare the data within both databases and in part 3 I will either create a script to update the database or run an exe which the tools will create for us to make both databases the exact same, both in schema and in data, so let’s get started.

I’ve made dome schema changes to STOCK_DB_DESIGN and I wish to see whats changed, so lets see how to compare the 2 databases using SQL Compare (I’m using version 11).
sqlcompare4

In the screen shot above I’ve chosen my databases to compare and the tool will now run and show me what the schema differences between the two. the screen shot below shows the results after the tool has been ran against both databases.

sqlcompare5

On the left pane we see the changed database, on the right the database without these changes, I clicked on the first row to show the changes in the t_depot table and in the split at the bottom it shows the differences per object – very quick and easy to see what’s changed.

Update time
In order to update the older database with the new changes, we simply click on Deployment Wizard at the top and we get the following screen with options:-

sqlcompare6

Here we get 2 options:-

  • Create a deployment script – use this option if you want to script the changes and review before running in the changes.
  • Deploy Using SQL Compare – use this option if you want the tool to make the changes for you, you also get the option after its ran to automatically compare the 2 database after the changes to verify.

And that is it, easy, simple and straightforward, no manual steps involving creating scripts, no real chance for it to go wrong, plus you can source control the script if you really wanted to or share it with colleagues.

In part 3 I’ll cover comparing the 2 databases when it comes to data, for this we will use SQL Data Compare.



Continuous Deployments for SQL Server – Part 1

Okay so your using a SQL Server database at work but you haven’t yet put the database into Source Control, here are some reasons as to why you want to do this:-

Source control your database
Trust me your going to want to do this if you haven’t already, it’s a good practice, it may save your skin some day, yes you can take backups which again is a good practice, here is an excellent article on why you want to do this:- Why put your database into source control?.

Okay now that we wish to put our database into source control – we still use Subversion at work so I downloaded Subversion and installed it locally as well as TortoiseSVN.
I have 2 databases called STOCK_DB_DESIGN and STOCK_DB_DESIGN_ORIGINAL within SQL Sever, the former had a few schema changes, imagine this is Development(STOCK_DB_DESIGN) and Staging(STOCK_DB_DESIGN_ORIGINAL).

I created a local repository within Subversion and downloaded RedGate’s Database Lifecycle Management Products.

This tool comes with SQL Compare and SQL Data compare as well as a host of other awesome SQL Server tools which you can find out about at the above link.

For this post I’ll be using Redgate’s SQL Source Control which adds a tab to SQL Server Management Studio and looks something like this:-

sqlsource1

So lets go ahead and add a database to our source control using this tool, Select the option above, and then Next

sqlsource2

I selected Subversion because at work we still use it, but you can use Git also and others, click Next

sqlsource3

I then give it a repository URL, I already created a repository within Subversion for my database and added the URL like above, click Next and that’s it, our database is now linked to source control. Now to get the database scripts into Subversion we need to right click on the Database in question within SQL Server Management studio like so and select Commit Changes to source control:-

sqlsource5

This will then add all of the database objects to SQL Source Control, once that’ completed, go into windows explorer and I use TortoiseSVN I can right click within my local SVN repository folder and then select Checkout or get latest version and this will result in the following folders being populated:-

sqlsource4

And when I go into say the tables folder I’ll see the following:-

sqlsource6

And that’s all there is to source controlling your SQL Server database. If I make change to an object say a table I’ll see whats changed locally in SQL Management Studio and I’ll know I still need to commit the change as seen below:-

sqlsource7

In Part 2 I’ll show you how to compare schemas on both databases to work out what changes are required, and how to script them using the tool.



My todo list for work in 2016

Its 2016 and I like to make a list of things I wanna look into and put into place at work so here is a list of things I am aiming to do which also includes at my job in 2016:-

  • A blog post each week, last year I only managed 11 blog posts and that’s poor, so more blog posts will come in 2016.
  • Lightning Talks, we have started doing these at work and this year I plan to do a few of them if given the chance, I’m doing one on the 6th of January on as Developers Top 10 Best Practices which I will share about once I have done my talk.
  • Test 3rd party end points, have a dashboard page which tells us what is up and what is down, going to try to use the Chrome add-on called Postman and use collections within Postman to do this.
  • Database Deployments, currently we manually script everything and then get the dba to run the scripts in manually, we need to script the database and put it into Source control each release as a starting point, I’m looking forward to this as it well help aid with our deployments and speed them up. Hoping to get the RedGate Sql Toolbelt into the company so we can use this to help us achieve this.
  • Red/Green deployments, we currently deploy at weekends and this can and should change so that we aren’t spending time at weekends doing releases which take quite a lot of time, we can automate them more and this year I plan to fix that.
  • More Testing, we are closing in on unit testing our PowerShell scripts, this will be another nice addition to the number of different areas which we are currently testing which is great.
  • Code Reviews, need to figure out a way that keeps everyone from being bored, brings benefit to the team and keeps us developers on our toes going forward.
  • Continuous Improvement, test more, more in-depth code reviews, automate more, release finished work, tackle the back log each sprint.

That’s it for now, I will add to this lost throughout the year as we go, i will keep an eye on this post and how we get on and blog about each one individually, hopefully I’ll get the chance to work on some if not all of these this year.

Feel free to follow me on twitter at @gsuttie



Choosing what Technologies/Frameworks to use

TechnologyBasics I have seen a few of my good friends on twitter discussing what technologies/frameworks they use and why they chose them.

I have also seen people saying why they should use this technology/framework over that technology all with really good arguments, as well as people asking which technologies/frameworks/libraries they should look at.

Note:- This is from the perspective of a company and not an individual developers stand point.

It comes down to a number of things and twitter isn’t really the best place to discuss this as it’s too small to get your point across hence this blog post.

I have worked in a few different places over time and there really is no single answer, some financial place I was in you were told which technology you were going to be using and it wasnt even up for debate, software architects who you would never even see had made the decisions already whether that be a good idea or not.

I would say choose the technology/framework that fits your current criteria as well as the technology/framework that matches your teams skill sets.

There has been a few posts about MVC or Nancy, in the end who cares what you choose? – if it gets the job done right?

Perhaps if you’re in a small team then its easier to choose say Nancy over MVC perhaps? – but if you walked into a team of 50-100 developers in a company im betting more people know MVC than know Nancy, that’s not to say MVC is better than Nancy, I havent even looked at Nancy, why not? – for a couple of reasons, why do I want to look at Nancy when MVC is used through our solutions, do I want to spend time learning another tool that does the same job? – no I don’t have time, don’t get me wrong I love to look at new ways of doing things, but I want to spend time learning something else like KnockoutJS or RavenDB and expand on my skill set, id rather do that port perfectly fine code bases which use a number of tools that run on MVC to Nancy and then have to check everything still works as expected including tests, build scripts, all sorts of other tools we use like chirpy and T4MVC.

People wonder why companies choose Microsoft products over other similar products and from experience it’s usually for either the option of MSDN licence support if required, or that more developers out there know and understand the product therefore there is more chance of help/finding a solution to a nasty bug – sort of strength in numbers it’s also easier for a manager to say to their boss look we will use SQL Server instead of CouchDB because of the products past history and thy can sleep safe in the knowledge its proven – I am not saying that other products are brand new and not to be trusted far from it, but I hope you get the point.

Recently we started using CoffeeScript for our latest project and to be honest I have never liked it, it was good for organising code in a better structured manner and I will leave it at that – we are looking to move to TypeScript and this isn’t because it’s a Microsoft product, its open source and I just think it’s so much nicer due to the tooling. It’s a better too for the job in my opinion and in summary there is no magic answer to what the best technology is, decide upon the variables in play and go from there is what I would suggest.

Not everyone will agree so feel free to add a comment.