Personal

Ehh, What’s up, SqlJason?

Ehh, What’s up, SqlJason?

It’s been more than a month since the last post and you might be wondering – what’s up with SqlJason? Well, let me tell you that the last one month has been really busy and I thought of filling you guys in with some of the juicy stuff that’s been happening! Ehh, What’s up, SqlJason? 1) Speaking Events
Last year April was when I started my first speaking assignment in the USA and it was great to have so many different opportunities to present last year. This year April also turned out to be the starting month for my presentations, and I can’t believe that I already presented at five different places this month. Speaking events in April The PASS BA Conference was the first stop, and this was my first experiencing presenting in a big stage. Looks like it went good from the session evaluations (got a 4.6, my session ranks in the top 15 out of the 60+ sessions in the conference) Session Evals sorted by session ratings The attendance was also pretty decent, managed to pull in 98 people which is the highest I have ever got in any of my sessions. Session Evals sorted by attendance I had lots of fun with my #sqlfamily and also got to meet a lot of new people. Overall, a very fun experience and I am definitely going to attend PASS BA Conference next year. Next stop was SQL Saturday Chicago and this was just the next day after PASS BA Con. After all the partying and the awesome speaker dinner at the previous night, speaking was always going to be difficult task but luckily, everything including the demos went fine. I also got to see some great sessions by Mark V & Doug Lane, Julie Koesmarno, Leonard Murphy. In short, another great experience and a very well organized event. Next on the list was SQL Saturday Jacksonville which took place 2 weeks after the Chicago event. The Jacksonville event was one of my favourites from last year and it turned out to be even better this year as it was the first time all four of us CBIG buddies (me, Javier, Melissa and Rafael) got selected to speak at the same event. And I must say Jacksonville didn’t disappoint me, great crowd as usual and highly interactive (and very generous with the session evals too hehe). A couple of days later, I started off for my first user group speaking event of the year – Triad SQL BI User Group at Winston Salem. A big thanks to the user group leaders (Katherine Fraser and Doug Purnell) for giving me the opportunity, really enjoyed interacting with the user group members there. The next speaking event was the Carolina Code Camp 2013 which was in Charlotte itself (finally a home event! Open-mouthed smile). Unlike the other four events, the majority of the attendees was from a non-SQL Server background. So it was fun speaking to a different profile of attendees and I must say that this was one of those sessions where the attendees laughed at all of my jokes (either they got all of my jokes or were being REALLY nice with me Smile). I remember someone saying that event speaking is really addictive, I couldn’t agree more! Just to prove that, I have 2 more events coming up in the next week:- a) SQL Saturday Atlanta – I will be speaking on the topic “GeoSpatial Analytics using Microsoft BI” at 1 pm, this weekend. This is going to be another really great event with registrations hitting record levels for a SQL Saturday (800+ including waiting list). If you are coming for the event, definitely drop by and introduce yourself, I would love to meet you. b) Mariner Webinar – If you are not able to attend my session at SQL Saturday Atlanta, don’t worry. I am doing the same session (“GeoSpatial Analytics using Microsoft BI”) as a Webinar for my company – Mariner on May 21, 2013 12:00 PM-01:00 PM Eastern. You can register for this FREE event by clicking on this link – Click to Register  2) CBIG Updates As some of you recall, me and three others (Javier, Melissa and Rafael) started a new BI user group this year in Charlotte – CBIG. We are having a great run with attendees steadily increasing from 35 in the first meeting to 50+ in the last meeting (65 being the highest as of now). Even though five meetings are too early to call the user group a success, the popularity of CBIG is evident from the 87 registrations (including waiting list) we received in our fifth meeting (where our seating capacity is only 60). We had already moved from the initial meeting room after our second meeting (where our seating capacity was 30) and now, due to the increasing number of registrations, we are moving our venue from New Horizons to the Microsoft Campus (which has a seating capacity of 85) in July. That said, the numbers are secondary. The primary aim for us is to cultivate a culture in CBIG which mainly revolves around the community spirit as well as a passion for technology. If you are in or around Charlotte, don’t miss out on our user group meetings on the first Tuesdays of every month. We have got meetings lined up till September as of now and the RSVP links can be found at http://charbigroup.com/. Also, don’t hesitate to contact me if you want to speak at our user group, we are always looking for speakers! 3) SQL Saturday Charlotte – BI Edition Announced And yes, we have also announced the date for SQL Saturday Charlotte – BI Edition. The event will take place on Saturday, October 19, 2013 (which happens to be the Saturday after the PASS Summit 2013, which also is in Charlotte). The planning is going on full steam and we are confident that we will have a great event laid out for all of you guys. Ensure that you register today to extend your PASS Summit 2013 experience.   4) And now the BIG one – Personal Updates For those of you who know me personally, this might be old news. And for the others, you might recall me saying at the start of the year that I might not match up to my previous year’s activities this year due to personal reasons. Well, the personal reason is given below. Me & my wife with the baby bump Yups, I am going to be a father to a baby girl this August 12 and I have no shortage of adjectives to describe my condition right now – excited, anxious, nervous, hyperactive, charged and so on. I am looking forward to those sleepless nights and all the other joys that come with parenthood. For the moment, I am going to stop writing and enjoy a good night’s sleep when I can.

Posted by SQLJason, 1 comment
2012 in a Nutshell

2012 in a Nutshell

The world is a noisy place. There are mobile phones ringing, motorcycles roaring by, 19-year-olds with bad taste blasting EDM over their car speakers – and that’s just on your morning commute. It gets worse when you get to the office and your coworkers start chattering about having “a case of the Mondays.”

Noise at any level can be horrible for your health. Beyond causing hearing loss, consistent exposure to noise raises your risk of heart attack, stroke, obesity, insomnia, stress, and related mental health disorders, according to Harvard Medical School.

Enter: noise-canceling headphones. You don’t even have to play music over them; some people simply use them as expensive earplugs.

Noise-canceling headphones aren’t cheap by headphone standards. However, you have a range of options at prices ranging from $50 to over $400. But before we dive into the top picks at each price point, it’s worth understanding how they work.

Active Noise Canceling vs. Passive Noise Canceling

Technically speaking, there are two types of “noise-canceling” headphones: passive and active noise-canceling.

Passive noise-canceling headphones are designed to physically block as much ambient noise as possible. Over-ear headsets do this by firmly cupping your ears with layers of sound-dampening foam padding. I found this pair to be the best wireless earbuds.

But when most people refer to noise-canceling headphones, they’re talking about active noise cancellation. Active noise cancellation (ANC) was designed for pilots, who suffered long exposure to loud airplane engines. The technology assesses ambient noise through a tiny microphone, then cancels it out by generating sound waves at the same wavelength, just inverted by 180 degrees. The new waves nullify the original incoming sound waves in a clever application of wave theory.

ANC works best with lower-frequency sounds and consistent sounds, such as the drone of airplane engines. But it dampens other sounds as well, reducing ambient noise by 20 to 45 decibels (dB). The best passive “noise-canceling” headphones only reduce background noise by 15 to 20 dB. For context, a whispered conversation is about 30 dB, while a plane taking off is about 120 dB.


Best Noise-Canceling Headphones Under $100

Want to avoid all those health problems, but don’t have hundreds of dollars to drop on cutting-edge noise-cancellation technology? Don’t worry.

Whether you want to maximize your commute by listening to personal development audiobooks or save on travel costs by using public transit, try these low-cost options for ANC headphones.

1. Mpow H10 (Top Pick)

For the best all-around value for active noise-canceling headphones under $100, it’s hard to beat the Mpow H10. They offer well-rounded, quality sound for the price point. They also sport a comfortable fit and long battery life, which is essential since active noise cancellation requires extra power.

Their noise-canceling technology isn’t as robust as some of the more expensive options on this list, but it does a great job with low-frequency sounds.

As a nice perk, these headphones work either wirelessly or with a cord. That’s great for people like me who get paranoid about wireless radiation right next to their brain, as well as for audiophiles who prefer the clearer sound of wired headsets.

If there’s a downside to the Mpow H10, beyond the usual price point limitations, it’s their appearance. They look and feel a little plastic-y and cheap. But it’s what’s under the hood that counts, and on that score, the Mpow H10 delivers.

2. Anker SoundCore Space NC

For slightly better noise canceling and a significantly better look, check out the Anker SoundCore Space NC. They boast great battery life and intuitive button controls, and like the Mpow H10, they can operate either wired or wirelessly. They also come with a handy little carrying case.

The downside of the Anker SoundCore Space NC is that their sound quality is bass-heavy. For fans of bass-centric music genres, they’re a fantastic value. But the bass drowns out more instrument- or vocals-led music, making the Anker SoundCore Space NC more of a niche headset.

3. Mpow H5

If you’re tight on money and want the most bang for your buck, look to the Mpow H5. They cost half as much as their big brother the H10 and still pack in plenty of features. Across the board, their specs are decent: reasonably good sound quality, comfort, battery life, and even a carrying case.

Where they fall short is full noise cancellation. They’re the cheapest ANC headphones on this list, and you can tell when the ambient noise is loud.

4. Anker SoundCore Life 2

Costing slightly less than the Space NC, the Anker SoundCore Life 2 also provide balanced sound without sacrificing power on the bass. Lovers of all music genres will appreciate the sound quality for the price point.

The Anker SoundCore Life 2 also feel comfortable and have a strong battery life. Like the other options above, you can use them either wirelessly or with a cord.

They don’t offer total noise cancellation, however. They work, but not as well as the Space NC, so if you have a loud office or commute, they might not be your best choice.


Best Noise-Canceling Headphones From $100 – $200

In the $100 to $200 range, you start getting more premium sound. These aren’t the best ANC headphones in the world, but audiophiles can find headsets that deliver great sound among these mid-range options.

5. Bose QuietComfort 25 (Top Pick)

The Bose QuietComfort 25 was the top ANC headphones in the world in 2014 when they cost $300. Now, they cost less than half that, but most of what made them so great then still applies.

They’re extremely comfortable and fold well for travel. Their sound quality is outstanding across the board, with clear lows, mids, and highs. The noise cancellation was state-of-the-art in 2014 and still works great, even if the technology has improved incrementally since then.

There are two interesting and related points worth mentioning about the Bose QuietComfort 25. First, they’re wired-only, unlike most modern ANC headphones. Second, they still work when the battery runs out after an astounding 35 hours of life. They may not work as well, but they essentially convert to a high-quality passive headphone set when the battery dies.

In this price range, Bose’s QuietComfort 25 headphones are hard to beat.

6. JBL Live 650BTNC

Another strong contender for middleweight champion ANC headphones, the JBL Live 650BTNC offer excellent sound and modern features, such as Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa for sending easy commands to your smart home devices.

With 20 hours of battery life on wireless and 30 hours on wired use, they’re no slouch when it comes to battery life, either.

Where the JBL Live 650BTNC fall slightly short of their high-end competitors is noise-canceling technology and comfort. For short and intermediate sessions, they’re comfortable enough, but for multi-hour use, the on-ear foam starts to irritate.

Still, at its price point, it makes a compelling option.

Posted by SQLJason, 3 comments
And I am a MCSE in BI!

And I am a MCSE in BI!

There has been a lot of things happening in my life recently. For example, yesterday was my first wedding anniversary, I was speaking at SQL Saturday 122 (Louisville, KY) in the weekend, last Monday I finally took my road test and got my driving license in the USA, and tons of other stuff which you would be least interested in. And the week before last, I managed to pass my 70-462 exam, which makes me a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) in the BI track now; I thought at least some of you who are thinking of going through the certifications might be interested to know about my experience.

MCSE BI SQL 2012

You must have already heard about the new certification structure from Microsoft and there are tons of blogs out there which talk about this change. For the SQL Server 2012 certification, you have the MCSA (similar to MCTS for SQL 2008) and MCSE (similar to MCITP for SQL 2008) now. The MCSE has two tracks – SQL Server and BI and I would be talking only about the BI track here. The MCSA is a pre-requisite for the MCSE, and the way to obtain MCSA is given below

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After you have got your MCSA, you can follow the path below to get your MCSE in BI

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As you can see from the above images, you just have to write three exams for the upgrade path to your MCSE BI compared to the five if you are new to certification. Even though I was eligible for it, I decided to go through the longer path as I had got the codes to write the beta exams. I decided to write 4 of the 5 exams required for my MCSE in BI. 3 of them (463, 466, 467) were completely BI related while the other one (461) was more testing the SQL coding skills. As I had already starting working with SQL Server 2012, I was not that worried about the three BI exams. I consider my SQL skills also to be good (even though my TSQL skills are not that great) and since all the exams were free (because they were still in beta), I decided to try it anyway (else it would cost me $150 per exam). The only exam I didn’t write was 462 and the reason is something that will strike with most if not all of the BI guys – I had no clue on how how to administer the SQL Server side. I am more of the guy who would keep the phone numbers of a couple of DBAs in my hotkeys, and call them the moment I hear something on migration strategies, replication, mirroring, security, etc. Anyways, I scheduled the 4 beta exams in 2 weeks (as seats & dates were limited), and managed to pass all four of them. Even though I can’t disclose the exam content, I would give a couple of advices:-

1) Make sure that you read this book – Introducing Microsoft SQL Server 2012. This book is free and is the easiest way to make sure that you at least get acquainted with all the new features of SQL 2012.

2) As long as you have experience and are familiar with the SSIS, SSAS (including multi-dimensional, tabular, MDX, DAX) and SSRS, you just need to do some general reading which is what I did. Else you might need to pick up a few books and start preparing for those topics. I know that the tabular side is something that is completely new and is a challenge for most BI professionals that I know. I would recommend Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Analysis Services: The BISM Tabular Model as a great guide to get you to that intermediate to expert level.

3) Make sure that you go to the Skills Measured tab of the exam page and at least read something on each point that is there. The internet has a lot of articles and you can find almost everything if you just search for them.

4) For me, the easiest way to remember things is by doing. If it is the same for you, make sure that you have installed the entire BI suite and do a couple of exercises. If that is not possible for you, try to hit the Virtual Labs.

Once I got to know that I passed for all four, I started preparing for my 70-462. I was really lax initially as I was more of the mentality that I don’t require to know all these in my daily job as a BI consultant. Once I got over that mind block, I started to appreciate the fact that at least now, I will have some basic understanding of what all these terms mean. My advice for this exam is

1) Get the official guide for the exam – Training Kit (Exam 70-462): Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases. After taking the exam, I feel that this is a great guide for the exam.

2) Make sure that you read and understand all that is written before you go forward. For example, there are different migration strategies and what you need to know is when to use which one. At the end, I was overwhelmed with all the information that I read and started to forget which one to use when.  It might be a good idea to make small cards for each section, and put the different techniques in a tabular format.

3) Take all the practice tests in the CD accompanying the book. It is a great way to test your readiness for the exam.

4) Incase you are not buying the book, make sure that you go to the Skills Measured tab of the exam page and read as much as you can on each point that is there from the internet. Hopefully, this information would come in handy for those who are preparing for the exams. Meanwhile, let me start flaunting my new logo and certificate Smile

Jason Thomas - MCSE in BI SQL 2012

Posted by SQLJason, 7 comments
I am speaking at…

I am speaking at…

And so, it has been an eventful 3 months since I reached the US, and I must say I am really settling in well to my new job and life here. Also, it has been a full two years since I started blogging and a big shout to all those lovely people out there who have been tolerating me and my “random thoughts”. I decided that it is time to start meeting all those great guys around me and what better way than to come and speak at an event near you? DSC_01127 So just as an FYI, I would like to let you know that I am speaking at the following events :- 1) Charlotte SQL Server User Group : Thursday, April 19, 2012 from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM http://apr2012cssug.eventbrite.com/ 2) SQL Saturday 118 (Madison, WI) : Saturday, April 21, 2012 from 9:30 AM to 10:30 AM http://www.sqlsaturday.com/118/schedule.aspx 3) SQL Saturday 130 (Jacksonville, FL) : Saturday, April 28, 2012 from 3:45 PM to 4:45 PM http://www.sqlsaturday.com/130/schedule.aspx 4) SQL Saturday 129 (Rochester, NY) : Saturday, May 12, 2012 from 10:15 AM to 11:15 AM http://www.sqlsaturday.com/129/schedule.aspx Don’t forget to come and talk to me if you are attending any of these events, nothing makes me more happy than getting to know my readers better. Well, actually I am lying, a mug of beer makes me happier. But then there is no reason why we can’t have a talk over a beer, right?

Posted by SQLJason, 2 comments
A New Year and a New Job

A New Year and a New Job

For people who are connected with me, this would not come as much of a shock but yes, with this post comes a big change for me. By the time this post gets published, I would have already moved on from MindTree Ltd and started work at Mariner, my new work place. This would also mean that I have changed my base from London, UK to Charlotte, USA. Mariner I have lots of fond memories about MindTree and the decision to part was indeed very difficult. I will definitely miss my colleagues there and wish them all the very best for the future. At the same time, I am also very excited to join Mariner and look forward to working and learning from some of the most talented people I have known. Hopefully, I will also be able to contribute something. The new year has got me a new job and I am looking forward to a lot of things. I would like to end this post with a New Year wish that I had read sometime back, for all of my readers- I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you’ll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you’ll make something that didn’t exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind. I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something. Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself!

Posted by SQLJason, 8 comments
And here I announce the good news…

And here I announce the good news…

To all my loving and caring readers who had been wondering where the hell did I get lost the last month, I have two good news for you. 1) I got hitched! Yes, I had been on a vacation last month and meanwhile managed to upgrade the status of Ms Neethu Sebastian from long-time girlfriend to wifey Smile. The wedding was a lot of fun but hectic to the core (roughly translates to – enjoyed it but never doing it again).   2) My session got selected for SQLBits 9! Yes, I will be speaking at SQLBits 9 – Query across the Mersey. Just got the confirmation from the SQLBits team that my session – Fast Track to Spatial Reporting has been selected. The session would be held on Oct 1, Saturday from 8.10 to 9.10 am. Please click on the agenda below for more details. sqlbits agenda P.S. : If you are attending SQLBits 9 in Liverpool, make sure that you drop in and say a hi to me Smile

Posted by SQLJason, 10 comments
Microsoft Community Contributor Award 2011

Microsoft Community Contributor Award 2011

Just around a week ago, I had blogged about completing one year of active participation in the Microsoft communities. Today morning, I was pleasantly surprised to see the following mail in my inbox MCCA letter I am deeply humbled (and a little worried on where I would place the MCCA logo on my already overcrowded sidebar Smile) on receiving this and hopefully, the access to complimentary resources will act as an extra motivational factor for me to continue my activities. Well, enough of the boring acceptance speech and time to flaunt my latest logo MCC_Logo_NEW MCCA certificate

Posted by SQLJason, 8 comments
1 year of activity in MSDN Forums

1 year of activity in MSDN Forums

Even though I had joined the MSDN Forums way back in 2009, I started using it regularly only from 2010 February. Looking back, it’s been a wonderful journey and I should say I have learned a lot from all of you wonderful guys contributing there. I didn’t do pretty bad myself as I raked in 6556 points from 1158 posts with 392 answers, all in the past one year. MSDN Profile My activity at the forums inspired me to take my career to the next level and even my blogs and networking are a direct result of this. In the past few months, my activity has reduced considerably but I intend to catch up soon and make up for it. I am also planning on getting more involved in the user group activities and taking some sessions, but more on it later.

Posted by SQLJason, 1 comment
London Ahoy!

London Ahoy!

To all those folks who have been wondering where I disappeared – I just relocated to London from Bangalore this Sunday, 25 July! I was extremely busy in the preparations and hence couldn’t blog much and by the looks of it, the next 2 weeks also looks pretty hectic. I have to find an accommodation somewhere in London within the next 12 days, my office is in 288 Bishopsgate (near the Liverpool Street Station). So if any of you guys know a decent place for a single guy, please do pitch in, I would appreciate it 🙂 Hopefully, I would be meeting a lot of you who are in London. Till then, adieus amigos. london

Posted by SQLJason, 1 comment
I am finally a MCITP!!!

I am finally a MCITP!!!

Whoah! So finally I managed to clear my Microsoft Certified IT Professional exam in SQL Server 2008 BI after procrastinating it for almost 3 months. Well, ever since I cleared my MCTS exam in SQL Server 2008 BI, I was itching to get my hands on the the next title and so I scheduled my exam sometime in the first week of March. But as the doomsday appeared, I sort of started getting apprehensions whether I was actually prepared to write the exam as I had done no extra preparations (come on, there was no official book specified for the exam like the MCTS one. And no, don’t even start calling the reference books specified in the home page as official books) and I had no clue what sort of questions would be asked. Anyways, finally got the guts to write it yesterday and I cleared :). Now speaking about the exams, I would have loved to discuss the questions but then there is a non-disclosure agreement because of which I would not be able to divulge the questions, but then I will try to give a general feel of the exams. MCTS (70-448) This exam can be cleared by anyone who has got a decent 1 year hands-on experience in the tool. Most of the questions are related to development of the solution, and on top of that, the official book – MCTS Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-448): Microsoft SQL Server 2008-Business Intelligence Development and Maintenance is pretty much detailed. My view is that even if you don’t have the experience to back you, studying the book will definitely help you pass the exam. Number of questions were around 36 and data mining related questions were few and simple. Mostly it was centred around SSIS, SSAS and SSRS. As for my preparations, I had around 3 years of experience and just read the complete book as I would read a novel in 3 days and wrote the exam. Mission cleared! MCITP (70-452) The sort of questions which were asked in this exam were completely design related. So if you have been designing BI solutions for 2+ years, this should be a breeze for you. Unfortunately for me, I had been designing only the OLAP part in my company and hence had to ponder a bit more in the SSIS part. Some of the questions really made me think, and even after that, I would be stuck with 2 answers. But the SSAS and SSRS parts were pretty decent which makes me re-affirm what I said before – you would find the parts easy if you have sufficient experience in it. In the end, I scored around 90% in the sections related to SSIS, SSAS and SSRS, but scored a 0 in the data mining part. There were only a few questions related to data mining, so guys, no need to get scared if you don’t have experience in data mining like me. Worst case, you can still pass after getting a zero in data mining like I did ;). Number of questions were around 66. As for my preparations, I would say a bit of extra reading in SSIS and of course yes, reading tits and bits from my favourite SSAS guide – Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Analysis Services Unleashed for maybe 3 days. Mission cleared! Now I can finally display the MCITP logo in my profile 😀 mcitp-logo

Posted by SQLJason, 3 comments