Having previously attended Oregon SQL on one occasion  and being at least somewhat interested in SQL as a whole , I was particularly intrigued by last night’s meeting because it included a discussion of Power BI, something my company wants to use a lot more of and something I wanted to get more familiar with. Before the three speakers, each of whom was presenting a pitch for a different aspect of SQL understanding, there was some quiet time for reading, which I took advantage of, some announcements about future events that are all either on the Sabbath or during the Feast of Tabernacles that I wil be thus unable to go to, as well as some time devoted to looking unsuccessfully for more sponsors to provide food and gifts to attendees as well as a chance for people to state their case for looking for work or looking for people to fill opportunities. These activities filled up the first 45 minutes or so of the three hours that was allotted to the meeting time.
The first speech, which ran a little bit long on account of the incompetence of the speaker, who was in Atlanta and trying to show off how awesome Power Shell was. The best part of the presentation was the title, which was: Episode IV: A New Hope, and it is always great to get a Star Wars reference in, and the reference to the reciprocal verb pairs like get and set. Unfortunately, Power Shell itself was not particularly impressive, looking like DOS and showing itself to be ugly and full of glitches and the need for aliases to work out alright. This does not mean the speaker himself was bad–he was a humorous enough fellow and told a story that must have been true about backup failures and people trying to use their car battery to juice up the batteries at an office to save some databases by buying more time for servers.
The second speaker was the shortest of the lot, discussing T-SQL for accuracy and performance, and doing a good job at it. In discussing the insatiable love for memory that SQL has as a program, he also showed off the data cache and the plan cache, showing how parameter sniffing could go wrong in the hands of the wrong settings, showing how it is useful to clear out settings every once in a while, like after QA screws up one’s settings with worst case scenarios, but that doing it at the wrong time could be a distinctly career-limiting move, something that drew plenty of laughs from the appreciative audience. The author’s talk included some comments about the tradeoffs between recompiling and the risks of poor performance, and featured some blazing fast work by queries when they are properly optimized. The author even engaged in some philosophical conversation about what filled caches, namely poorly written queries that require a lot of hunting around for context.
The third and final speaker gave a talk on Power BI, which is what I came to see. He started with a compelling and borrowed infographic about the architecture of Power BI and then proceeded to give a sales pitch to the power of software to make working with data and creating reports easier. I must admit that as skeptical as I am in general, it was a reasonably persuasive sale as far as I was concerned. Part of the reason for this is that the author was speaking in my wheelhouse–report design, data sets, excel, data visualization, as well as the process of communication and collaboration with others, all areas I care a great deal about personally as well as professionally. He spoke about the experience of Power BI for the user, for publishers of reports, for the enterprise, for the server, and also spent a great deal of time talking about the gateway between users and the cloud when it came to sharing reports. There was also a demonstration of the power of fixing military time in flight reliability calculations from the FAA in Power BI, as well as the way one can look at the data along all steps of a process of scrubbing and formatting. It looks like a solid tool, and one I would like to know a lot more about–apparently the author has a book that is nearing publication within the next couple of months.
Speaking of books, at the end of the meeting there was a raffle and I won a copy of a book that I will put on the schedule to read and review: SQL Server Source Control Basics, something that should be fairly practical given my work with data. I also chatted a bit with the third presenter, who encouraged me to join a Power BI meetup in Portland that apparently has good food on Wednesday nights, and then I was off. Despite some drowsiness towards the beginning, the meeting really picked up toward the end and was quite worthwhile for this attendee, at least.
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