Book Reviews
1 Jun 2016
Defensive Database Programming
I am really liking the various eBooks that are being published by Red Gate (
This book is no exception. Defensive Database Programming [ISBN: 978-1-906434-44-1] is an interesting choice of topic. In this book, fellow MVP Alex Kuznetsov, assisted by another fellow MVP Hugo Kornelis has tackled a how to structure your database code to avoid common pitfalls, misunderstandings, and assumptions.
It's great to see a book on a topic of how to write code that will survive long enough to be useful, rather than code that might just get through the initial testing. He calls out many of the common mistakes that we all see when reviewing SQL Server code.
It won't take too long to read and it's likely to improve your code. Best of all, it's free thanks to the team at Red Gate.
You can find it here: (
27 Sep 2014
Pro Spatial with SQL Server 2012
Anyone that has listened to me speak over the last few years or attended one of my classes knows that spatial data in SQL Server is a topic that I'm really keen on. People make the mistake to think "It doesn't apply to my business" but they're usually wrong. I've yet to see a business that couldn't make some effective use of spatial data if they just stopped and thought about it for a short while.
A few years back, I was attending a conference event in the USA, and in his SQL spatial session, Ed Katibah (aka Spatial Ed) was giving away copies of Beginning SQL Server Spatial with SQL Server 2008 by Alistair Aitchison ( Given the title, I didn't grab a copy of the book at that time as I figured I was ok with what it would be covering.
I was completely wrong about that. The title belied the content of that book. It contained so much more than beginner content. It was a seriously wonderful introduction to SQL Server spatial and I was kicking myself that I didn't read it at the time. I've been telling people about it ever since.
SQL Server 2012 added some wonderful new additions in relation to spatial data, so I was really looking forward to reading Alistair's updated book if he produced one. I've been pretty despondent about the state of the technical book industry so I wasn't sure if it would appear.
Pro Spatial with SQL Server 2012 ( is simply a wonderful book. I read most of it a year or so ago but didn't want to write a review until I had read all of it. It is so well written; the discussion is interesting; the coverage is amazingly complete; and it includes so many relevant concepts from outside the SQL Server offering such as geocoding, visualization, etc.
We started running a SQL Server Spatial Core Skills ( one day course a while back. This is the number one reference that I mention to students, even though I've been a co-author on another book that even had Ed as a co-author.
Buy it, if only to support authors that are still prepared to write quality books. This is a quality book.
7 Oct 2011
MVP Deep Dives Volume 2
It's great to see that volume 2 of MVP Deep Dives is now available. I was disappointed that I couldn't make it to the book signing at the PASS summit this time.
A huge thanks has to go to Kalen Delaney for her management of this project and a big thanks to my fellow editors Louis Davidson, Brad McGehee, Paul Nielsen, Paul Randal, and Kimberly Tripp for their efforts. A special mention for Paul Nielsen whose ideas and spirit around volume 1 that have continued into this new volume.
And of course, a really big thank you to all the authors that gave their time to make this possible.
Please buy a copy and help us to help Operation Smile. You'll find the book's website here:
While you're at it, why not send an extra donation to Operation Smile:
21 Jun 2011
Expert Cube Development with Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Analysis Services
I spent last week on campus in Redmond with the SQL Server Analysis Services Maestro program. It was great to have a chance to focus on SSAS for a week. As part of that, I did quite a bit of reading as I had quite a bit of travelling time. Ironically, I re-read a few books.
The first was Marco Russo, Alberto Ferrari and Chris Webb's book Expert Cube Development with Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Analysis Services ( I've often told BI classes that I've been teaching that this is a really good book and highly recommended. Re-reading it confirmed that. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it again.
I can't say that I agree with every conclusion that Marco, Alberto and Chris came to, but I really appreciated the tone of the book where they make direct recommendations about how to do things, rather than endlessly messing around with "it depends" types of comments. Often, readers just want an opinion on what to do, even if it's not the only opinion.
I'm not sure that the book is at the "Expert" level but it provides a very sound coverage of Analysis Services. There are only two areas where I would love to see some changes. First, while the AS material is great, the more they step into the relational engine aspects, the shakier the material gets. For example, they discuss that disk queue lengths greater than 2 are a problem. While that was an indication to consider back when we mostly worked with DAS based systems, in most SAN-based environments, this simply isn't correct advice.
Second, I hope the guys push the publisher (PackT Publishing) to make their book available in Kindle format. It was the only book that I took with me on this trip where I needed to carry the hard-copy book.
Regardless, it's a great book and should be on the shelf of anyone working with Analysis Services 2008. Highly recommended!
21 Jun 2011
Fast Track to MDX
Another book that I re-read while travelling last week was Fast Track to MDX ( I still think that it's the best book that I've seen for introducing the core concepts of MDX. A former colleague of mine, Mark Whitehorn, along with Mosha Pasumansky and Robert Zare do an amazing job of building MDX knowledge throughout the book.
I had dinner with Mark in London a few years back and I was pestering him to update this book. The biggest limitation of the book is that it was written for SQL Server 2000 Analysis Services, yet it still provides an excellent introduction to MDX. The knowledge from the three authors and Mark's entertaining writing style make this still a "must-have" book for anyone learning MDX.
Highly recommended!
(And thank you to the publisher Springer for making it available in Kindle format).
21 Jun 2011
Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Analysis Services Unleashed
Yet another book that I started re-reading last week (but haven't finished again yet as it's so large) is Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Analysis Services Unleashed ( by Irina Gorbach, Alexander Berger and Edward Melomed.
This book has always left me with mixed feelings. The authors clearly offer expert level knowledge on the topics (as they were part of the development team for the product) but I struggle with the "readability" of this book. As an example, each time a concept is introduced, it is done so with accompanying XMLA code snippets, etc.I suspect that a lot of readers would be put off by the XMLA. Most people just don't think in XMLA.
The content of the book, however, is excellent. I normally tell classes that this is a great book to have as a reference on the product, but just not such a great book for reading from cover to cover. On re-reading it, that opinion hasn't changed.
If you're working with SSAS, you should have this book on the shelf for reference when required.
(And thanks to the publisher Sams for making it available in Kindle format)
1 Jun 2011
Microsoft PowerPivot for Excel 2010: Give Your Data Meaning
I'm loving my Kindle. I seem to be getting through books so much faster. One book that I recently read was Microsoft PowerPivot for Excel 2010: Give Your Data Meaning by Marco Russo and Alberto Ferrari (
I really liked this book. It provided quite good coverage of PowerPivot use in Excel 2010 and also spent some time mapping the use of PowerPivot to organizational requirements. Marco and Alberto provided more coverage of DAX (Data Analysis Expressions) than I have seen anywhere else, particularly in relation to the CALCULATE verb.
If I have any criticism of the book, it's probably just the order of the chapters. I can imagine that many people won't want to delve so deeply into DAX and may stop reading before they get to the later chapters. I'd like to have seen much of the DAX material at the back of the book as a type of "advanced DAX topics" section, given that the remainder of the book doesn't really depend upon it.
I was left feeling that there's a need for another type of DAX book, much like the book that Art Tennick wrote for MDX: Practical MDX Queries: For Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services 2008 ( In that book, Art provides a large number of "recipes" for how to achieve common tasks with MDX. I'm sure that's also needed for DAX.
Anyway, Marco & Alberto's book is definitely recommended.I'd give it 8 out of 10. (And a big thumbs up to the publisher for making a Kindle version available too).
1 Jun 2011
Dreaming In Chinese
Another book that I've just finished reading on the Kindle is Dreaming in Chinese by Deborah Fallows. I had purchased the hard cover edition ( a while back on the recommendation of Ron Talmage but hadn't got to reading it. I was glad to then see the Kindle edition ( of the book appear. I purchased and read it and loved it.
Deborah spent three years recently living in Shanghai and has documented many of the struggles she had with coming to terms with learning Mandarin and with getting used to Chinese society. I imagine that part of the hassle she would have had was dealing with Shanghai-ese rather than the Mandarin that she would have learned before heading off to China but I could relate so well to so many things she spoke of.
The book is also quite funny. I particularly liked the part where Deborah described trying to talk to an employee (who was wearing a big sombrero) outside a Taco Bell restaurant. She wanted to know if they offered take-away food but her attempts to pronounce the words (even though she had the correct words) ranged from asking for a big hug, to discussing hail.
My favorite part was where she discussed Chinese names. Chinese people will often adopt English names when they move to an English-speaking country, and of course, English-speaking people will often adopt Chinese names when they move to a Chinese-speaking country. The most common way to do this is to try to find a set of Chinese words that are like a transliteration of your existing English name. But it's also important to try to find words that mean something sensible in Chinese, like "Harmony". Deborah made me laugh out loud when describing one of her young friend's boyfriend who decided to choose a name to ward off gui (or evil spirits). He chose the name Fendui. Unfortunately, while it sounded like his name, it directly translated to "pile of s@#$@#$". Beautiful!
If you have any interest in understanding Chinese society, even if you don't want to tackle Mandarin, this book is a great read. Highly recommended! (10 out of 10)
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