I Have An iPad, So Why Did I Order A Kindle?

I love getting emails from Amazon telling me that my order has shipped! An almost giddy feeling wells up inside me when I see the message. The most recent email was about an Amazon Kindle that slowly made its way to my doorstep.

Just One Look

I was perfectly happy using my iPad as an ebook reader until I handled the Kindle that I bought my wife for Christmas. That’s all it took.

So what change my mind?

Size matters

When I first received my iPad six months ago, I was immediately struck by its sleek design, its thin profile, and its amazing video quality. I still am, especially when compared to a laptop. It’s a handy device that I regularly use in my consulting business.

As an ebook reader, the iPad is found lacking. Sure iBook has some neat, page turning graphics, but the lack of titles is frustrating.

The Kindle Reader app works well on the iPad but the software cannot overcome the relative heftiness of the iPad. It’s not a joy to hold upright while reading in bed. It’s much heavier and bulkier than a Kindle.

It’s the next best thing to paper

Although I occasionally find the backlit screen of the iPad to be an advantage in low light situations, generally speaking the eInk technology of the Kindle provides a far superior reading experience. Many claim that the technology is easier on the eyes. I don’t really know whether that’s true. I just know that it seems more pleasurable to read on the Kindle than the iPad.

It keeps getting better

When Kindle 1.0 came out, a couple of my early adopter friends quickly snatched one up. They were excited to show me how great it was. Frankly, I wasn’t impressed. The flickering and slow page turning was enough to turn me off.

A couple of versions later, Amazon has gotten it right. This little device is smaller, lighter, and faster than its predecessors. It’s battery life is extraordinary.

It’s Arrived

As a light weight, near laptop replacement device, the iPad is wonderful. I use it in business meetings, I use it to make presentations at conferences, and I use it to just surf the web from the comfort of my recliner.

But there’s something to be said for doing one thing really well. Sometimes, I just want to read. I’m glad my Kindle has arrived.

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year.


2010: The Year In Review

“Quitting smoking is easy; I’ve done it dozens of times.” the great American writer Mark Twain once said.

Although I’ve never been a smoker, I can relate to Twain’s sentiment. Setting a goal for yourself can be easy. If taken lightly, goal setting can be little more than creating a wish list of things you’d like to achieve in the future. However, the value of setting goals really is in defining your priorities and outlining a way to achieve the goals. This helps you to systematically live life in a way that is consistent with your priorities.

It’s the follow through and dedication required to turn the wish into a reality that’s tough.

My Goals For 2010

Almost a year ago, I shared my goals for 2010 with the blogosphere as a part of a meme that was going around at the time. Now it’s time to reflect on how I did this year.

Without a time of reflection, setting goals becomes a spark in a flash pan, a short burst of thought and enthusiasm without any real long-term commitment. Periodically reflecting on your goals helps to ensure that 1) the goals are still applicable, and 2) that you are making strides toward achieving the goals.

My Professional Goals for 2010

In January I set the following goals (there is more detail in the original post):

  • Write a business plan for a new venture I’m considering.” This year I gave considerable thought to how this new business may take shape. I did some research and investigation. As a result, the concept morphed into something slightly different that my original idea. I think it’s better and more likely to succeed now as a result. I didn’t document a formal business plan so I fell a little short of this goal. Grade: B+
  • Post a minimum of 72 blogs to my professional blog site.” This is my 66th blog post of 2010 so I came pretty close to my goal of 72 postings. I may get a few more in but I’ll likely miss the 72 mark. I feel that I made progress toward becoming a better writer during th year. Grade: A-
  • “Schedule and have a Weekly Review at least 40 times this year.” This has been my Achilles Heal. Making the time and having the discipline to regularly review my outstanding items and determine what I’d like to tackle in the upcoming week has been tough. On the weeks where I’ve done it, it’s felt great! Unfortunately, I regularly let me “trusted system” get out of date so conducting the review becomes much more of a chore. I’ve got to do better in this respect. I have found software and some routines to help though. Grade: C

My Personal Goals for 2010:

  • “Double the amount of pasture that I have fenced.” I made some progress here by getting a new paddock fenced and added to the rotational grazing plan, but I didn’t double the space. There’s still work to do. Grade B-
  • “Read at least 5 books on preparedness, survival skills, or sustainability on the farm.” I love reading. I’m not a fast reader so it takes me some time to get through a book, but I do enjoy reading books. This year, I met my goal of reading 5 books in the categories mentioned. Those weren’t my only books; I read a lot of other business and faith-based books as well. Grade A
  • “Paint three rooms in our house.” I got one room painted and slightly redecorated this year. Grade C
  • “Resolve an ongoing plumbing issue.” Although I resolved several new plumbing issues in our 100+ year old house this year, the issue I truly had in mind when I created this goal is still outstanding. Grade D

No Excuses

I also accomplished some other noteworthy items in 2010 that were not on my radar at the start of the year. Foremost in this list would be an addition to our family. We now have five kids so as you can imagine, that alone keeps us quite busy.

I also became a BSA Certified LifeGuard during the summer. (Now I have a fall back plan just in case this whole database and business thing doesn’t work out for me. <grin>) And I helped orchestrate a successful SQLSaturday in Nashville by serving as the Chairperson for the event.

I’m typically my harshest critic when it comes to performance. There’s always something I could have done better. Overall, despite falling a bit short on some of my goals for 2010, it was a good year and I’m pleased with the accomplishments.

Your Turn

So how about you? How did you do with your goals this year? Blog your review and post a link to it in the comments below.

Kevin Kline (twitterblog) and Tim Ford (twitterblog), you guys both called me out for the meme last January so I’m specifically interested to hear how you faired with your goals.

Happy Thanksgiving

To everyone in the United States, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. Eat lots of turkey, visit with family and friends, and enjoy your day off of work. And to everyone around the globe, why not spend a few minutes today reflecting on all for which you have to be thankful.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.  ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Blessings to you,


SQL Server Trivia

Think you know SQL Server past and present? Here are the next-to-impossible questions I asked at the SQLSaturday #51 Stump The Experts session in Nashville. There were a few people who apparently have far more active brain cells than me who managed to answer a couple of these questions. But for the most part, these questions, did indeed, stump the experts.

Let’s see how you do.

The Trivia Questions

Question 1:

True or False. The following T-SQL statement is valid.


Question 2:

What’s the maximum number of nonclustered indexes per table for a 64-bit instance of SQL Server 2008 R2?

Question 3:

There was a little known and cancelled upgrade to Windows 95 that eventually became known as Windows Desktop Update, Internet Explorer 4.0. What was its codename?

Question 4:

For what processors was SQL Server 4.21a SP4 available?

Question 5:

When did Mainstream Support end for SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition?

Question 6:

What is the maximum number of columns you can have in a single SELECT statement in a 64-bit instance of SQL Server 2008 R2?

Question 7:

What was the final name of the SQL Server feature that originally was known by the code name Rosetta?

Question 8:

What command displays information about the installed versions and registered instances of Notification Services?

Question 9:

How many task in SSIS for SQL Server 2008 R2 are designed for SSAS?

Question 10:

On what operating systems did SQL Server 4.20 run?

Question 11:

How many copies of a query plan can be in memory at one time in SQL Server 2008 R2?

Question 12:

In how many different North American cities has the PASS Community Summit been held?

Question 13:

Name one aspect of SQL Server that separate it from any other Microsoft product.

Question 14:

For which operating system was SQL Server originally developed?

Question 15:

In SQL Server 2008 R2, how many DMVs are related to Indexes?

Question 16:

How much was an unlimited user license for SQL Server 1.1?

Question 17:

When was SQL Server 1.1 released?

Question 18:

When SQL Server 1.1 was first released, it was considered to be well behind in sales compared to Oracle Server for OS/2. How many licenses had Oracle sold already?

Question 19:

True or False. SQL CE can be managed from SQL Server Management Studio 2005.

Question 20:

When AUTO_UPDATE_STATISTICS is ON, updated statistics or cardinality changes to which of the follow tables cause a recompile?

a) User Tables
b) Temporary Tables
c) Inserted Tables
d) Deleted Tables

The Answers

Answer 1:

True. But it’s scheduled to be deprecated in a post SQL Server 2008 R2 release. (http://bit.ly/sqlsat51-1)

Answer 2:

999 (http://bit.ly/sqlsat51-2)

Answer 3:

Nashville (http://bit.ly/sqlsat51-3)

Answer 4:

SQL Server 4.21a Service Pack 4 was available for Intel (x86), MIPS, and Alpha-based computers. (http://bit.ly/sqlsat51-4)

Answer 5:

April 8th, 2008 (http://bit.ly/sqlsat51-5)

Answer 6:

4096 (http://bit.ly/sqlsat51-6)

Answer 7:

Reporting Services (http://bit.ly/sqlsat51-7)

Answer 8:

NSControl ListVersions (http://bit.ly/sqlsat51-8)

Answer 9:

3 (http://bit.ly/sqlsat51-9)

Answer 10:

Windows NT 3.1/Windows NT Advanced Server 3.1 (http://bit.ly/sqlsat51-10)

Answer 11:

2; one for parallel execution and another for serialized execution. (http://bit.ly/sqlsat51-11)

Answer 12:

6; Chicago, San Francisco, Denver, Seattle, Orlando, Dallas/Grapevine (http://bit.ly/sqlsat51-12)

Answer 13:

SQL Server is the only Microsoft product that allows you to set processor affinity. (via Buck Woody)

Answer 14:

UNIX; that’s why SQL Server still has processor affinity on a SMP operating system. (via Buck Woody)

Answer 15:

7 (http://bit.ly/sqlsat51-15)








Answer 16:

$3,995 (http://bit.ly/sqlsat51-16)

Answer 17:

August 20th, 1990 (http://bit.ly/sqlsat51-17)

Answer 18:

7,000 (http://bit.ly/sqlsat51-18)

Answer 19:

True. (http://bit.ly/sqlsat51-19)

Answer 20:

All of the above. (http://bit.ly/sqlsat51-20)

The Results

So how did you do? Got any other good trivia questions that I could have / should have added to the list?

And a very special thanks to our panel of experts – Thomas LaRock, Jason Strate, Kendra Little, Jeremiah Peschka, Louis Davidson, and Kevin Boles!

Literary Rocks, Atlas Shrugged, and Twitter

Most of the time, I live under a rock when it comes to pop culture. I’ve never seen a single episode of Survivor, 24, or House. I don’t know which megastar is getting married to what professional athlete. And I can’t name a single song from Lady Gaga. In fact, I didn’t even know that name until a few months ago.

It’s not that I feel above those things; it’s just that they hold exactly zero interest for me. And it doesn’t bother me that I don’t know these things. I’m used to being completely unaware when others bring up those topics. I’d much rather watch the History Channel, learn a new Dutch Oven recipe, or mend a fence in the pasture.

“Who is John Galt?”

So I wasn’t surprised when I’d never heard of a book that a friend recommended to me about a year ago. That happens with some regularity.

But since then I’ve slowly realized that I have apparently been living under a literary classics rock too when it comes to Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

It seems that most everyone I know has read it at least once. Most agree that it’s a good book and worth the sizable time commitment required to finish its 800-plus pages.

From what I understand through talking with others, the book is eerily similar to many of today’s political events and remarkably parallels our current economic challenges. All the more astonishing is that the book was written over 50 years ago!

The 140 Character Book Club

A couple of weeks ago I tweeted my intention to finally read Rand’s most famous prose. About a half dozen Twitter friends are going to read it as well. Some have read it before, others haven’t. Some I know personally; others I’ve just met.

Together we’re going commit to reading a couple of chapters per week and discussing it 140 characters at a time. We’ll use the Twitter hashtag #JohnGalt. Our first virtual, Twitter-based book club meeting is Monday, the 26th of July. There is no specific time. We’ll just tweet comments and questions throughout the day as we have time. In fact, I’d expect the asynchronous discussion to last a few days. If you’d like to join us, tune into the Twitter feed. We’d love to have you.

The Three Events That Brought Me Here

Recently Paul Randal (twitter, blog) instigated another meme in the SQL Server community – What three events brought you here. If you’re not familiar with memes, I’ve explained them in another post entitled “What’s Your Biggest Weakness?” And as I mentioned in that post, I love reading memes because it really helps you feel like you’re getting to know others in the SQL community. Technical articles and forum postings help you to learn more about technology; memes help you to learn more about a person. And even though the SQL Community is focused on SQL Server, at its core is people.

A few days ago I was tagged for this meme by my friend TJay Belt (twitter, blog). You can read his post here.

So what brought me to this point in my career? I’m glad you asked.

The Apple IIc

The first event that started me down this journey was when my childhood friend and neighbor got an Apple IIc. He had a few games for it but otherwise really didn’t know what to do with it. I was in the latter part of middle school at the time and spent most every rainy day at his house trying to figure out what we could do with this new “thing”.

I eventually discovered that I could view and even changed the source code for some of the basic games. For example, in a horse racing game, I modified it so that I could alway tell before each race which horse would come in first. I also started creating some primitive “choose your own adventure” games.

Not long after noticing my interest in computers, my parents bout me an IBM PC Clone  from a company called Leading Edge. According to the salesman, it was powerful enough to run a small business and it should last me a long, long time. About a year later, I upgraded the RAM from 256kb to 512kb by removing a bunch of little individual chips from a breadboard and replacing them with others. It didn’t have hard drive.

I bought and studied a book on GWBasic and started writing programs. I started with simple things like a check book balancing program (boring!) and the like. The pentacle of that era was one that would play Mastermind with me.

The future Mrs. Webb

After high school, I went to college to study Electrical Engineering and then went on to get an M.B.A. It was during that time that I met the wonderful young woman that would eventually become my wife. The only issue was that she transferred from Auburn University to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. So after I graduated, I pursued her, looking for most any job I could find in the Middle Tennessee Area.

I landed one working for a pharmacy software company vendor. My job was to help develop a digital communications package that would transfer patient and sales information from stores to headquarters and then send formulary information from headquarters to stores . It was my first real experience with databases and I liked it.

A Taste of Consulting

Just a couple of short years after starting work for the pharmacy software company, my direct boss at the time left the company and started consulting for other companies in the pharmacy software field. It didn’t take long for him to get so busy that he needed some help. He called me and I started doing work on the side for him. Before long, that turned into a full time job for me.

Over the next few years I helped him to build a successful consulting business from the ground up. I learned invaluable lessons about working with clients, writing proposals, designing software, and the like. It was then that I decided to strike out on my own. I thought that if I could help him to build a successful consulting company, I could do it again for myself. So, with the support of my wife, I left and started WebbTech Solutions. That was 14 years ago and I haven’t regretted it at all.


In the year 2000, I was leading the Nashville SQL Server User Group and I heard about this new association called the Professional Association for SQL Server. Kevin Kline (twitter, blog), then the Vice President of Marketing for PASS, came to speak at our local group and really talked high of the organization.

So our group became an Official Chapter for PASS just one year after its inception. I went to my first PASS conference in San Francisco where I met Brian Knight (twitter, blog). He recruited me to be the Chapter Manager and I was eventually appointed to the Board to fill a vacancy.

I continued volunteering for PASS and was elected several more times to the Board, eventually serving as the Vice President of Marketing and Executive Vice President of Finance. During my time there I met many, many great people and a multitude of doors were opened for me, too many to recount here.

It’s all about people

As I think back over the events and milestones that have led me to this point in my career, I realize more than ever before that it really is all about people. The people you meet, the people you help, and the people that help you along the way.

So, what about you? How did you get to where you are right now? What events, either planned or coincidental got you to where you are? I’d like to hear about them.

Goals and Theme Word for 2010

I was warned by my father when I turned 21 that, although it seemed like it took a long to reach 21, three blinks from now I’d be 40. Boy was he right! The older I get, the faster time seems to pass by.

We’re two-thirds of the way through January 2010 already and I’m just now getting to my first blog post of the year. Weeks ago, I was tagged by my friend, Tim Ford (twitter, blog), for a meme about my Goals and Theme Word for 2010. A good and timely reminder to set aside some time to think about what I’d like to accomplish in the coming twelve months, and to share that with the world. What better way to hold yourself accountable than to share it with, well, everyone?

Time got away from me and I hadn’t posted anything. That’s when another good friend, Kevin Kline (twitter, blog), gently reminded me in his goals posting that I hadn’t shared mine.

The Value of Setting Goals

As you can probably imagine, the life I’ve chosen keeps me pretty busy. Running my own consulting business, living on a hobby farm with animals and a garden, raising four wonderful kids with my wife of twelve years, and volunteering for church and Boy Scout activities requires me to prioritize. I need to make sure that what I’m doing is important. That’s not to say that it’s all work and no play for me. No, leisure time with my family is important to me. So I make sure that I take the time to have fun.

This begs the question: how do you know what is important? We can go through life putting out the fires that pop up along the way, reacting to the pressing need of the moment. But that’s very reactionary. It’s not planned. And it doesn’t allow you to make sure you’re generally moving in the right direction because your vision is limited to one fire at a time.

To ensure that your overall direction is right, to know whether each of the fires puts before you will take you a step further in the direction you want to go, you must first define that direction. This is where goals come in.

Goals are set when there isn’t a fire immediately in front of us, when we have the time to think about what we want rather than what the pressing issue of the moment is asking of us. Goals give us a vision of the desired future. And with that vision in mind, we can evaluate each opportunity as it’s presented to us and compare it to that future-state that we’ve already defined. If the opportunity moves us a step closer to that future-state, we can embrace the opportunity, if it doesn’t we can take that into consideration as we evaluate what to do about it.

My Goals for 2010

I subscribe to the SMART goals theory. Each goal should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Essentially it boils down to “who does what by when” and in this case you are the “who”. This keeps us from creating fuzzy or indeterminate goals like “I’m going to blog more.” There is plenty of information online about SMART goals, just use your favorite search engine to find a plethora of information on the subject.

For the purposes of setting goals, I like to keep two broad categories in mind: the goals that pertain to my business and career and those that involve my home life.

My Professional Goals
Over the next twelve months (ok, 11.3 months), I’d like to accomplish the following things:

  • Write a business plan for a new venture I’m considering. For several years now, I had an idea for a new and complementary business but I haven’t acted on it. This year, I will. The business plan itself is not really what I’m after, it’s the process of writing it that’s important – doing the research to see if it’s a worthwhile proposition.
  • Post a minimum of 72 blogs to my professional blog site. That’s an average of 1.5 blog postings per week. Of course I’m already behind in this area so I’ll need to do some catch up here. As with my first goal, this goal is really serves as a proxy for two other goals that are more difficult to measure. First I’d like to get better and faster at writing and one approach to that is to do it more often. Secondly I’d like to increase the number of people I help through this blog and studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between blogging frequency and readers.
  • Schedule and have a Weekly Review at least 40 times this year. I’ve been using a customized version of David Allen’s Getting Things Done for years now, but I haven’t quite mastered one of the more powerful aspects of it, the Weekly Review. This year will be different.

My Personal Goals
Before the end of this year, I will:

  • Double the amount of pasture that I have fenced. About one-third of our pasture has perimeter fencing and that’s just not enough for the heard of animals that we have and will have by late spring. I need to give them access to more grass.
  • Read at least 5 books on preparedness, survival skills, or sustainability on the farm. This equals what I did last year and my knowledge on the subjects have greatly increased but I still have a long way to go.
  • Paint three rooms in our house. There’s not much more to say about this one.
  • Resolve an ongoing plumbing issue. There’s not much more you want me to say about this one; trust me.

And there you have it, my goals for this year. Of course I’ll continue to do the other things in my life like teach a Sunday School Class at my Church, volunteer as an Assistance Scout Master in the Boy Scouts, and strive to spend more time with my kids. But these are the new goals for the coming year.

I was close to setting a personal goal of going to Philmont Scout Ranch in northern New Mexico this year, but I’m not quite ready to commit to that yet. I’ll go one day, I’m just not positive that this year will work out for me.

There’s nothing really impressive or necessarily inspiring with them, but getting them jotted down so that I can refer to them throughout the year and reflect on how I did at the end of the year will is good. Thanks Tim for tagging me on this one.

Since I was so very late in getting these out, this meme has pretty well run its course so I’m not going to tag anyone for follow up. But if you’d like to share your goals for this year, I’d love to hear about them. Post a link in the comments section below, or jot them down directly in a comment.

Goodbye Twitter/FaceBook Integration, Hello Readability

I’m me. At least I try to be. I’m not one to put on airs or to be pretentious about things. I’m pretty much a simple what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of guy. I guess that’s why I once ended up at a fairly exclusive, by-invitation-only, leadership training event in Chicago a few years ago with chicken poo on my shoe, but that’s another story.

Being yourself is easy, despite what Rodney Dangerfield may have said. It’s much easier than trying to be someone else. Or trying to be several someones at different times. As amateur philosopher Kurt Cobain once quipped “Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.” And while I certainly don’t turn to Cobain’s works for issues of life guidance, that axiom does make a certain amount of sense.

Social Media

I guess that’s one reason why, when I finally started getting involved with Social Media, I didn’t want to create multiple persona’s, each with a distinct group of friends. I didn’t want to have one outlet for my SQL Server Professional colleagues, another for my Church family, yet another for my Scouting friends, and still another for my farming/prepping friends, and who knows how many more. Who has time for all that? Not me!

So, as I joined Twitter and FaceBook and LinkedIn and Plaxo I looked for ways to bring those independent and disparate worlds together. I sought ways to participate in all of them without having to spend a lot of time duplicating my efforts.

After trying a number of different ways to integrate my experiences in the different sites, I found one that seemed to work. I could tweet with Twitter and have those messages automatically become status updates for all the other Social Networking sites. Perfect! Or so I thought.

When Worlds Collide

But I slowly realized (much slower than most of my FaceBook friends would like, I suspect) that what seemed like a good idea at the time, really wasn’t.

Conversations I had with my Twitter friends were automatically finding their way to FaceBook, LinkedIn, and Plaxo status messages. Seeing one side of a conversation was definitely confusing to my non-Twitter friends. When combined with the hash tags, the non-intuitive reply nomenclature, and the technical acronyms of my chosen profession, most of my FaceBook statuses were utterly nonsensical.

Separate But Equal

So at long last, I’ve decided to completely sever the Twitter to other Social Media links in my Social Networking endeavors. My FaceBook friends will no longer have to put up with partial conversations, incoherent techno-babble, and strange looking, comic-book-cussing-like status updates. My tweets will be tweets and my status updates will be status updates and never the twain shall meet.

An Exception to Every Rule

Every rule has an exception (except that rule, right?). I have found a way to post status updates to all of my Social Media sites using one source – Ping.fm. When I feel that a single status update is relevant everywhere, I’ll use my Ping.fm acount to send it to all sites simultaneously. But rest assured that will be few and far between.

What about you?

I’d like to hear how you’ve tackled this modern day Chinese finger trap known as Social Media.

  • Are you active in more than one Social Media?
  • Have you tried to integrate them in some way?
  • What have your experiences been?

The Revolutionary MacBook Wheel

Don't get caught up in a flame war

Don't get caught up in a flame war

There are several topics that, if mentioned in a news group or forum, will almost immediately start a flame war amongst ordinarily mild-mannered people. SQL Server vs Oracle is obviously one. But there are others. You know what they are.

“Should database objects be named plurally or singularly, Customer or Customers?”


“No, plural. You nincompoop!”

There are others, many others. And strong opinions are not limited to the database world. Your choice of operating system can make you either an enlightened visionary or a complete dolt depending on who you’re talking to at the moment.

Not a call to arms

Now, I’m not trying to start a flame war. But sometimes there something so spot on for one side or the other that it’s just too good not to share. This video has been around for while, but it’s one of those. It’s just plain funny.

As an aside, several years ago I opted out of the Windows vs Mac battle and adopted Ubuntu as my O/S of choice. It rocks! See My Virtualization Setup for a description of my system and how I use it to work with SQL Server and the .Net framework.

I hear good things about Windows 7. And I would certainly consider a MacBook. But they both seem to be pretty expensive compared to my Open Source Software solution. So for now, I’ll stick with Ubuntu. I do have an iPhone and consider it to be the best mobile business device I’ve ever owned, hands down, no comparison.

This video has been around for while, but it’s too good not to share. For the record and before I get flamed for bashing Apple, I’m not a MacBook detractor. Nor am I a MacBook snob. Although I know some of each.