Training Kit (Exam 70-462): Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases – #bookreview #mcsa

Training Kit (Exam 70-462): Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases
Orin Thomas, Peter Ward, and boB Taylor
(Microsoft Press, paperback with CD)

Exam 70-462 is one of three required examinations you must pass to get a Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) certification for Microsoft SQL Server 2012.

This well-structured, 593-page book is designed for self-paced training and includes a CD with practice tests. The CD offers several testing modes to choose from and hundreds of test questions. The text is amply illustrated with screenshots, bullet points and numbered steps, and each lesson concludes with a lesson summary and lesson review. Answers to the lesson review questions are at the back of the book, and explanations also are provided for why the incorrect answers are wrong.

The book’s introduction covers such topics as system requirements, practice setup instructions, errata and book support links, and how to prepare for the exam.

The book’s 12 chapters focus on the following topics:

  1. Planning and Installing SQL Server 2012
  2. Configuring and Managing SQL Server Instances
  3. Configuring SQL Server 2012 Components
  4. Migrating, Importing, and Exporting
  5. SQL Server Logins, Roles, and Users
  6. Securing SQL Server 2012
  7. Mirroring and Replication
  8. Clustering and AlwaysOn
  9. Troubleshooting SQL Server 2012
  10. Indexes and Concurrency
  11. SQL Server Agent, Backup, and Restore
  12. Code Case Studies

The authors caution that you should consider this study guide just “one part of your exam preparation plan. You require meaningful, real-world experience with SQL Server 2012 to pass this exam.”

They also recommend using Hyper-V, a feature of Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2, Widows Server 2012, and certain editions of Windows 8, “[t]o minimize the time and expense of configuring physical computers for this training kit. You can use other virtualization software instead, but the instructions are written assuming that you are using a solution that supports 64-bit operating systems hosted as virtual machines.”

Si Dunn

Deploying with JRuby: Deliver Scalable Web Apps Using the JVM – It’s the simpler & better solution? – #bookreview

Deploying with JRuby: Deliver Scalable Web Apps Using the JVM
Joe Kutner
(Pragmatic Bookshelf, paperback)

Many developers are using Ruby on Rails to create web applications. But the supporting infrastructure often can be complex. And when a problem occurs, there is no centralized management interface to help you quickly determine what has gone awry.

There is a simpler and better solution, says JRuby specialist Joe Kutner in his new book. “The recent growth and increased adoption of the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) as a platform for Ruby applications has opened many new doors. Deployment strategies that were not possible with MRI [Matz’s Ruby Interpreter] Ruby are now an option because of the JVM’s built-in management tools and support for native operating system threads. Ruby programmers can leverage these features by deploying their applications on JRuby.”

Kutner’s 199-page book focuses on how the JVM can offer deployment choices that are “much better options than both Ruby and Java programmers are used to.” He describes “the most popular and well-supported for deploying JRuby. There is,” Kutner says, “a surprising amount of flexibility in the processes and platforms that can be used, which allows Ruby and Java programmers to tailor their deployments to suit many different environments.”

Deploying with JRuby has 10 chapters:

  • Getting Started with JRuby
  • Creating a Deployment Environment
  • Deploying an Archive File
  • Creating a Trinidad Application
  • Deploying a Trinidad Application
  • Creating a TorqueBox Application
  • Deploying a TorqueBox Application
  • Clustering a TorqueBox Application
  • Managing a JRuby Deployment
  • Using a Continuous Integration Server

Kutner points out that production JRuby environments have “fewer moving parts than traditional Ruby environments. This is possible because of the JVM’s support for native operating system threads. Instead of managing dozens of processes, JRuby can use multiple threads of execution to do work in parallel. MRI has threads, but only one thread can execute Ruby code at a time. This has led to some complex workarounds to achieve concurrency.”

His book is written smoothly and to the point, and there are numerous illustrations and procedure steps. He also offers a “no-Java-code promise,” stating: “You will not have to write any Java code as you work your way through this book….The technologies and tools that you will be introduced to in this book hide the XML and Java code from you.”

Still, you are free to include Java code or make calls to Java libraries, if you want to, he adds. Or you may, as many others do, choose to write programs “exclusively in Ruby and deploy them on the Java Virtual Machine….There are many reasons,” Joe Kutner says, “to deploy Ruby applications on the JVM, and using Java libraries and APIs is just one of them.”

Si Dunn

Team Geek: A Software Developer’s Guide to Working Well with Others – Solid advice and career tips – #bookreview

Team Geek: A Software Developer’s Guide to Working Well with Others
Brian W. Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman
(O’Reilly,
paperbackKindle)

You’ve worked hard to become a software developer, and now that you’re there, you’ve learned that proficiency in several different computer languages is not enough.

In today’s insecure, competitive, and overly demanding job market, you also have to know how to work as part of a development team. And that team may be unlike any group you have been a part of before.

Some of your co-workers may be in nearby cubicles, and some of them may be on different continents – and you know them only by email and perhaps a few Skype conferences. Some of them may be employees desperate to hang onto their jobs. Others may be hired-gun contractors with no real loyalty to anything except themselves, their current assignment, their paycheck, and their next contract. Some members of your team may be angling constantly to advance, and others may be trying as hard as possible to stay below the radar.

And you – where do you fit in? And what do you hope to achieve by giving your employer a sometimes-outrageous total of hours, both at the office and at home when you technically are not working yet actually are?

And – yes, there’s always another and – what if you go to work tomorrow and your team leader has just been fired or quit and you are now in charge of your project and 15 other people?

Team Geek: A Software Developer’s Guide to Working Well with Others is a solid, useful handbook that can help you become a better, more productive team player and, if necessary or if you desire, also help you rise to the challenge of leading a software-development team.

Many of the principles and tips in this book can be adapted to almost any modern office setting where people work in groups and teams.

For instance, don’t avoid playing the “promotion game,” the authors caution, even if you really want to just focus on your current job and doing your best at it. “This can leave you vulnerable in many situations – for example, your company reorganizes and you get shuttled to a new team, you get a bad manager, or you wind up under the thumb of the office politician.”

They advise: “The higher in the organization you can get (either as an individual contributor or as a manager), the more control you’ll have over your destiny inside the company. Putting a modicum of effort toward getting promoted when you’re comfortable in your position is a great way to invest in your security and happiness when something bad happens to your company or team.”

Most importantly, the authors aim to show their readers how to cultivate and embrace three key principles – humility, respect, and trust – that are “the foundation on which all healthy interaction and collaboration are based.”

Trusting others may be the toughest to accomplish, they concede, particularly “if you’ve been burned in the past by delegating to incompetent people” or if you have spent a lot of time working alone and relying only on yourself and now, suddenly, you have to be a team player.

Si Dunn

Five Dark Riders – A novel rich with history, intrigue, action & romance – #fiction #bookreview

Five Dark Riders
Bill Sloan
(Zipp City Press, paperback, Kindle)

Bill Sloan is an acclaimed historian and veteran newspaper journalist previously nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He also is one of America’s best writers of World War II Pacific-theater combat narratives. (His latest, Undefeated: America’s Heroic Fight for Bataan and Corregidor, was published in April.)

With Five Dark Riders, his new “fact-based novel,” Sloan demonstrates that he can write engrossing, entertaining historical thrillers, as well.

Drawing upon President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s real-life 1936 trip to Dallas, Texas, Sloan has concocted an absorbing tale built around American domestic political intrigue, international espionage and an unfolding assassination plot.

In Sloan’s novel, Nazi agents have infiltrated a rural area of Texas where German immigrants first arrived in the 19th century, and pro-German culture and sympathies remain strong as Adolph Hitler continues to gain power. The agents’ goal is to assassinate FDR in Dallas, so Vice President John Nance Garner, an avowed isolationist, will take over the White House and keep the United States from going to war with Germany.

The only people who can stop the plot are two South Texans who don’t seem to stand much of a chance: Adam Wagner, a mildly disabled World War I combat veteran who now tends to his father’s sheep and goat farm in South Texas, and Elena Velasco, the beautiful and Anglo-distrusting daughter of an Hispanic family that operates a drugstore in a small Texas town.

Adam and Elena decipher the plot while trying to figure out who killed Elena’s cousin, Julio, who Adam had known since Julio was a baby. The local sheriff, an Anglo of German descent, has done little to investigate the young Mexican’s death, and now he has been duped by a close friend who secretly is at the center of the assassination plot. The sheriff has come to believe Adam may be Julio’s killer and may be involved in other crimes, as well. In reality, one of the Nazi agents killed Julio, and Adam and Elena have figured out how and why.

No one in authority, however, will listen to, nor believe, Adam and Elena and relay what they have discovered to the Secret Service. So, in desperation and with very few resources, the two South Texans begin a journey to Dallas to try to stop the plot themselves.

It’s a dangerous gamble. The Nazis want them dead. And the Secret Service has become aware that there may be some kind of plot against FDR and is trying to maintain very tight security in Texas. Meanwhile, the president’s protectors also are having trouble keeping track of the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, who keeps slipping away from them. And now they have been alerted to the movements of a suspicious, dangerous couple – Adam and Elena – who seem to keep trying to get close to the president, most likely to harm him.

It’s an excellent setup for a thrill-ride finish that’s full of history, intrigue, action, and romance.

Si Dunn

The Artist’s Guide to GIMP, 2nd Edition – Newly updated for GIMP 2.8 – #bookreview

The Artist’s Guide to GIMP: Creative Techniques for Photographers, Artists and Designers, 2nd Edition
Michael J. Hammel
(No Starch Press, paperback –  Kindle edition)

GIMP is a free and full-featured alternative to Adobe Photoshop. GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) now has a long track record and many users, but it remains difficult for newcomers to learn, particularly if you just jump in and click around on menu options, trying to figure out what to do and what is possible.

Michael J. Hammel recently has updated his popular GIMP how-to guide to encompass the latest version of the software and its newest tools. Hammel has been writing about GIMP since its early development stages in 1996. So he knows the package backward and forward, and, fortunately, he knows how to explain it to others, too. His book is well written, usefully illustrated, and rich with how-to lists and tips.

The Artist’s Guide to GIMP doesn’t follow the usual model for software guides, where menu choices are shown and explained one after the other, in minute detail. Instead, Hammel’s 295-page book uses a tutorial approach, and each tutorial covers a specific area of graphic design.

Of course, newcomers are given a one-chapter introduction to GIMP 2.8’s menus and features. The Fundamental Techniques chapter also shows how to use the program in multi-window and single-window mode.

The remaining five chapters, however, take a tighter focus as they continue to teach. And even experienced GIMP users can learn new things from them. The topics covered are:

  • Photographic Effects
  • Web Design
  • Advertising and Special Effects
  • Type Effects
  • Creative Inspiration

The chapters introduce a series of small projects, and you are shown how to complete them and achieve a variety of effects by using the appropriate tools and techniques.

Meanwhile, the projects in the final chapter, Creative Inspiration, are intended to inspire you to “move beyond simple desktop artwork” and use GIMP as “a tool to express yourself” and create new works of art.

“You seldom need just a hammer for a project,” Hammel writes. “GIMP provides the hammer, the saw, the drill, even the kitchen sink.”

Fortunately, in The Artist’s Guide to GIMP, he shows you how to pull the right tools out of the toolbox at the right time and use them the right way to complete each task with style and quality.

Si Dunn

Understanding IPv6, 3rd Edition – Welcome to the new, improved & BIGGER Internet – #bookreview #microsoft #windows

Understanding IPv6, 3rd Edition
Joseph Davies
(Microsoft Press, paperback, list price $49.99; Kindle edition, list price $39.99)

The Internet can now expand into a much bigger realm than was possible before the worldwide launch of IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) on June 6, 2012.

The web most of us use has long relied on IPv4, the circa-1981 Internet Protocol built around 32-bit addresses. This scheme can accommodate approximately 4.3 billion unique addresses worldwide. On a planet where (1) the population now has surpassed 7 billion and (2) many of us now have multiple devices connected to the Web, Internet Protocol version 4 recently has been in dire danger of running out of unique addresses.

IPv6 will fix that problem and offer several important new enhancements, as long as we don’t find ways to expand the Internet to parallel universes or to the people on a few trillion distant planets. IPv6 uses a 128-bit addressing scheme that can accommodate more than 340 trillion trillion trillion unique addresses. So go ahead. Get online with that second iPad, third smart phone or fourth laptop.

IPv4 and IPv6 are now running in a dual stack that supports both addressing schemes. The transition from IPv4 to IPv6 is not seamless, however. A lot of work remains to be done by major Internet service providers (ISPs), web companies, hardware manufacturers, network equipment providers and many others to enable IPv6 on their products and services.

Joseph Davies, author of Understanding IPv6, has been writing about IPv6 since 1999. His new 674-page third edition provides both a detailed overview of IPv6 and a detailed focus on how to implement it, within a limited range of Windows products.

“There are,” he notes, “different versions of the Microsoft IPv6 protocol for Windows….I have chosen to confine the discussion to the IPv6 implementation in Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2008, Windows 8, Windows 7, and Windows Vista.”

This well-written and well-organized book is not for beginners. Its intended audience includes:

  • Windows networking consultants and planners
  • Microsoft Windows network administrators
  • Microsoft Certified Systems Engineers (MCSEs) and Microsoft Certified Trainers (MCTs)
  • General technical staff
  • Information technology students

Davies and Microsoft offer downloadable companion content for this book: Microsoft Network Monitor 3.4 (a network sniffer for capturing and viewing frames); and PowerPoint 2007 training slides that can be used along with the book to teach IPv6.

If you need a guide to best practices for using IPv6 in a Windows network, definitely consider getting Understanding IPv6, 3rd Edition.

Si Dunn

Introducing Windows Server 2012 – A guide to what’s coming in a much-anticipated release – #bookreview #microsoft

Introducing Windows Server® 2012
Mitch Tulloch with the Microsoft Server Team
(Microsoft Press, paperback, list price $14.99; Kindle edition,
list price $0.00)

 The anticipated release date for the new version of Microsoft Server®  is sometime between the third quarter of 2012 and early 2013. And this book’s introduction hails it as “probably the most significant release of the Windows Server platform ever.”

Windows Server® 2012, it states, will offer “an innovative new user interface, powerful new management tools, enhanced Windows PowerShell support, and hundreds of new features in the areas of networking, storage and virtualization.”

There also will be major emphasis on cloud computing. The product has been “designed for the cloud from the ground up and provides a foundation for building both public and private cloud solutions,” the book declares.

Introducing Windows Server® 2012 is “based on beta,” according to the cover disclaimer. And, according to the author, the book  “represents a ‘first look’ based on the public beta release of Windows Server 2012 and is intended to help IT professionals familiarize themselves with the capabilities of the new platform.”

The 235-page book is divided into five chapters:

  • Chapter 1 presents “The business need for Windows Server® 2012.” Not surprisingly, the main focus is on cloud computing and multi-server platforms.
  • Chapter 2’s focus is “Foundation for building your private cloud” and how the new product can provide “a solid foundation for building dynamic, highly scalable, multi-tenant cloud environments.”
  • Chapter 3 looks at the Windows Server® 2012 features and capabilities that can create a “[h]ighly available, easy-to-manage multi-server platform.”
  • Chapter 4 discusses how you can use the product to “[d]eploy web applications on premises and in the cloud,” with its “scalable and elastic web platform” and “[s]upport for open standards.”
  • Chapter 5 focuses on Windows Server® 2012 features and capabilities that are key to “[e]nabling the modern workstyle.” The author states: “Today’s business users want things simple. They want to be able to access their desktop applications, and data virtually anywhere, from any device, and have the full Windows experience. And from an IT perspective, this must be done securely and in ways that can ensure compliance at all times.”

Since this book is a “first look” written prior to the ready-to-manufacture (RTM) date, some of its screenshots, feature descriptions and stated capabilities may differ somewhat from the product that will be released.

But this overview can be a useful – and inexpensive — guide to have handy while considering whether to move to, or upgrade to, Windows Server® 2012.

Si Dunn

Oh, Say Can You C#? – C# 5.0 in a Nutshell & C# 5.0 Pocket Reference -#programming #bookreview

O’Reilly recently has released two handy and helpful books for practitioners and students of the C# object-oriented programming language. One is a hefty, 1042-page “definitive reference” that (in paperback format) can double as a handy weight for physical exercise. The other is a compact, 215-page reference that really does fit in a coat pocket or pants pocket (but not a typical shirt pocket, unless you happen to wear an XXL, or larger, shirt).

Starting first with the muscle-building reference guide that weighs in at nearly three pounds…

C# 5.0 in a Nutshell, 5th Edition
Joseph Albahari and Ben Albahari
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $49.99; Kindle edition, list price $39.99)

This latest Nutshell edition covers C# 5.0, “the fourth major update to Microsoft’s flagship programming language, an update that positions C# “as a language with unusual flexibility and breadth,” the authors state.

They note: “At one end, it [C#] offers high-level abstractions, such as query expressions and asynchronous continuations, while at the other end, it provides low-level power through constructions such as custom value types and the optional use of pointers.”

The revised and expanded new edition “covers C#, the CLR [Common Language Runtime], and the core Framework assemblies. The authors have chosen this focus “to allow space for difficult topics such as concurrency, security and application domains—without compromising depth or readability.” It’s hard to argue with the “depth” of a book 1,000+ pages long. And the book is written clearly, with numerous short code examples to illustrate its points.

C# 5.0 in a Nutshell is aimed at readers with intermediate to expert knowledge of programming, but no prior knowledge of C# is assumed. Indeed, chapters two through four provide an introduction to C# basics, starting just above the “Hello, World” level with a program that multiplies 12 times 30. The remaining chapters cover advanced C# 5.0 topics and the core .NET framework. With just a few exceptions, you can read these chapters randomly.

The hefty book has a hefty index. It has been “shaped by more than 20 expert reviewers,” including several from Microsoft. And the authors have solid backgrounds in their subject matter.

And now, for something a bit lighter…

C# 5.0 Pocket Reference
Joseph Albahari and Ben Albahari
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $19.99; Kindle edition, list price $11.99)

The Nutshell authors have boiled their big book down to a very practical aid that you can easily carry to work, class or your favorite coffee shop or when traveling. Conveniently, the Pocket Reference still includes an introduction to C# 5.0’s fundamentals, starting with the simple multiplication program. It also covers many advanced topics, ranging from operator overload and Language Integrated Query (LINQ) to preprocessor directives, custom attributes, and XML documentation.

This book is not organized by chapters, so you will find yourself making frequent use of the book’s two-page table of contents and 12-page index, particularly if you are new to C# 5.0.

But you can readily find brief explanations, code samples and illustrations that define and clarify much of what you are seeking. And you will appreciate the book’s convenient size.

Si Dunn

The Art of Community, 2nd Edition – Creating online success in the social economy – #bookreview

The Art of Community: Building the New Age of Participation, 2nd Edition
Jono Bacon
(O’Reilly,
paperback, list price $39.99; Kindle edition, list price $34.99)

Whether you work for a large firm or operate a one-person shop built around an online presence, you should check out this newly updated guidebook on now to build, maintain and grow online communities.

Yes, it is a work focusing on organizational management — not exactly a topic that lights fires under reader excitement. Yet Bacon’s book is written smoothly and clearly, and it is rich with good ideas and good strategies that can help businesses, nonprofit organizations, and volunteer groups of virtually any size.

Creating an online community is not simply a matter of launching a website, sending out tweets and links, and then hoping and praying a few people will show up, hang out, participate, and occasionally buy something.

There are, Bacon says, effective planning strategies that can help you successfully enter, staying in, and succeed in the social economy. And, once you are there, it is vital to keep attracting new contributors.

“When your community kicks off, you’ll be way ahead if you can get down on paper its primary purpose goals,” he writes. Prior to launch, you need to clearly define its aims and its mission, the opportunities and areas of collaboration it can offer, and what skills will be needed in the community, he says.

These planning strategies can be effective, he adds, whether you want to build and maintain an online community for marketing products or services, or supporting a cause, or even developing open source software. (Bacon, an open source veteran, favors “fixed release cycles versus the release-when ready approach,” for several solid reasons important to a community built around an open-source product.)

A key lesson in his book is making sure that you create and maintain a sense of belonging in your online community. “If there is no belonging, there is no community,” Bacon emphasizes.

This book’s first edition in 2009 drew a good response from readers, and Bacon has both updated his text and brought in new materials for the second edition.

Three new chapters cover: (1) the major social media networks; (2) measuring community so you can track “the work your community or team commits to” and keep the work on track”; and (3) case studies “to help you develop your skills as a community manager.”

In a solo business, you are your community manager, as well as the proverbial chief cook and bottle washer. You create your products or services, you market them to the world, you fulfill orders or deliver services, and you also try to build, support and grow a community of followers, some of whom buy from you and others of whom help keep you inspired, grounded or focused.

In a larger business, however, your job title and sole focus may be “community manager.” The author, for example, is the community manager for the worldwide Ubuntu community. “Community management” is now a hot topic in the corporate world, and debates continue, Bacon says, on whether it is a marketing or engineering responsibility. “I firmly believe,” he emphasizes, “that community management is a tale with both marketing and engineering story lines flowing through it. If one is missing, community can feel unbalanced, misrepresented and ineffective.”

Even though your focus will be the online world, do not plan to base your whole community-building strategy around social media, Bacon warns. Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and others are, in his view, “just tools. There are many useful tools in the world that have become new and disruptive to our behavior, but few have been immersed in the sheer amount of hype, nonsensical ramblings, and just pure, unfiltered, salty bull that social media has.”

Some of the other tools to consider, he says, include discussion forums, email lists, IRC networks, and collaborative events such as online meetings and physical events where members gather, meet and interact in person.

The goal here, of course, is to maintain good communication, “the foundation of how your members work together, share goals and ambitions, and build social relationships with one another…[w]hen your members feel like they are disconnected from the community, they lose their sense of value,” he points out.

Jono Bacon’s 539-page book can show you how to create and grow an online community into a rich source of new ideas, a reliable support network, and a strong and wide-reaching marketing force, whether you are selling something, promoting a cause, or developing and maintaining open-source software.

Si Dunn

Getting Started with Dwarf Fortress – How to build and fight your way into this complex game – #bookreview

Getting Started with Dwarf Fortress
Peter Tyson
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $19.99;
Kindle edition, list price $15.99)

Many gamers agree with this book’s tagline, that Dwarf Fortress is “…the most complex video game ever made.”

For that reason, they have avoided taking it up or have tried it, stumbled over its steep learning curve, and walked away.

Peter Tyson, however, has been writing Dwarf Fortress tutorials for gamers since 2009, and his new 230-page how-to-play it guide has been getting some good reviews from players and newcomers.

The game’s “baffling complexity and Dwarf Fortress’s infamous and seemingly impenetrable ASCII graphics can be extremely offputting to new players,” Tyson concedes. But his new book “aims to help you overcome these challenges and to guide, comfort, enlighten, and hopefully inspire the inner Dwarf Fortress player in us all.”

His approach is to focus on the game’s simulation mode and have you first  build an underground dwarf fortress. After you learn how to build and maintain the fortress, you can start tackling numerous other challenging assignments, such as gathering and managing dwarf resources, growing (and defending) crops above ground and below ground, maintaining a healthcare system and justice system (while dealing with a few rogue dwarves who turn out to be vampires!), and creating and training a militar with dwarves and war animals. 

You will also learn how to expand your fortress and protect it with a wild array of traps, machines, and powerful weapons. 

“If there’s one thing all Dwarf Fortress players should be prepared for, it is losing,” Tyson cautions. “You will lose your first few games, and probably quite quickly. But do not fear! There’s a good chance that your losses will be quite amusing.””

“Once you are familiar with Dwarf Fortress,  you may feel like creating a more challenging world,” Tyson says. “Adjusting the world creating settings to produce a world with higher savagery is the easiest way to increase the difficulty as more locations will have dangerous and aggressive animals and creatures to face. This will necessarily force a change to your embarkation strategy–and traveling equipped for battle is advisable when deploying to a particularly dangerous area.”

Sounds  like a viable strategy, too, for the real world outside Dwarf Fortress. 

Si Dunn