I’ll be speaking at a Southampton University careers event next week

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Myself and a developer colleague of mine will be speaking about careers in the IT sector at a Southampton university careers event next week.


We’re booked in on the 27th representing my current employer, dotDigital Group. Here at dDG we’re offering 3 paid internships next summer in the development group, and this event will be the first chance to talk to us about them face to face. We’ll also be offering sandwich year placements in future as well.

As part of the talk, we’ll give our opinions on job searching in the IT sector currently, and also compare and contrast the differing types of employer and what they have to offer, based on our personal experiences over the years.

After that we’ll also run a CV workshop for anyone who wants to bring their CV along for some constructive criticism 🙂

Recruitment Frenzy

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dotDigital contains to grow at a fast rate. I’m currently recruiting the following roles:

Javascript / .NET developer x 2

C# .NET developer x 3


UX / UI designer

Head of Systems

Senior System Administrator

Desktop Support Engineer

Product Owner

SSIS / ETL / integration team leader

All these positions are available now and in interview stage. You can find details on our tech jobs site http://www.dotdigitaljobs.com/, our corporate site http://www.dotdigitalgroup.com/jobs/, and in various places such as stack overflow and jobserve.

This is keeping me busy pretty much full time right now, but you can’t complain about having to recruit to expand 🙂 If you fancy working for a company like dDG, drop us a line.

using SQL Server DMV sys.dm_server_memory_dumps to scan for memory dumps

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Whilst I was waiting for some very long running reporting code to run recently (a 365 million row table in tempdb was never going to be a good thing, but it wasn’t my doing, the business logic was forced upon me!) I was browsing various SQL 2012 items of interest and noticed that there was a new DMV to query the memory dumps produced by SQL Server


When looking into it further I realised that it had been introduced in SQL 2008 R2 as well and I’d never even noticed! This is ironic as in all the courses and talk I do on troubleshooting I’m always nagging people to check their error log directory in case they have 10000 mini dumps flooding their disks (insert large number of your choice here but I think that 10000 was the largest amount that I saw over my time at Microsoft). Now I just need to build this check into automated scripts. I guess the natural way would be to add it into the perfstats scripts or create a hybrid of that, which is something to add to my ever growing to-do list 🙂

I guess another nice way to do it would be to create a job which emailed the DBA when dumps were encountered (although you could argue a good DBA would already have noticed!)

I’m recruiting a SQL Server DBA

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I’m looking to recruit a SQL Server production DBA for my current employer, dotDigitalGroup. If you fancy coming and working on a big sector leading SaaS project with some very intelligent developers and technicians, check out the advert here


and our dedicated job site with details about the team here


SQL Server 2008 R2 cluster setup fails on mount points

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(Update from Monday morning, the workaround shown below works for me)

Another day, another set up problem (sigh) I was installing a second SQL 2008 R2 instance on a new cluster today. The first one had gone well without incident but the second one had a crucial change in that it used mount points. It was a fairly complex install with 8 mount points under the root volume and it took a while to complete all the setup configurations. When it got started it failed with the following selection of errors:

1. A dialog box with the error

Wait on database engine recovery handle failed. Check the SQL Server error log for potential causes.

2. The setup finished and pointed me to the usual error log files in the setup directories. In the summary log file I saw an equivalent error

Detailed results:
Feature: Database Engine Services
Status: Failed: see logs for details
MSI status: Passed
Configuration status: Failed: see details below
Configuration error code: 0x4BDAF9BA@1306@24
Configuration error description: Wait on the Database Engine recovery handle failed. Check the SQL Server error log for potential causes.
Configuration log: C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\100\Setup Bootstrap\Log\20120420_114647\Detail.txt

3. When opening the referred to detail.txt file I found pretty much the same again

2012-04-20 12:17:28 Slp: Configuration action failed for feature SQL_Engine_Core_Inst during timing ConfigRC and scenario ConfigRC.
2012-04-20 12:17:28 Slp: Wait on the Database Engine recovery handle failed. Check the SQL Server error log for potential causes.
2012-04-20 12:17:28 Slp: The configuration failure category of current exception is ConfigurationFailure
2012-04-20 12:17:28 Slp: Configuration action failed for feature SQL_Engine_Core_Inst during timing ConfigRC and scenario ConfigRC.

4. The text file pointed me to the SQL Server error log of the partially installed instance. When I opened this, I found the “real” cause

2012-04-20 16:00:51.51 spid8s Clearing tempdb database.
2012-04-20 16:00:51.52 spid8s Error: 5123, Severity: 16, State: 1.
2012-04-20 16:00:51.52 spid8s CREATE FILE encountered operating system error 5(failed to retrieve text for this error. Reason: 15100) while attempting to open or create the physical file 'O:\data\tempdb.mdf'.
2012-04-20 16:00:51.52 spid8s Error: 5123, Severity: 16, State: 1.
2012-04-20 16:00:51.52 spid8s CREATE FILE encountered operating system error 5(failed to retrieve text for this error. Reason: 15105) while attempting to open or create the physical file 'O:\data\tempdb.mdf'.

The SQL Server error code 5123 is why the instance couldn’t start, as it’s unable to create a tempdb database data file, and no SQL Server can start without tempdb being present. The “real” error though is the reason for this occurring which is error code 5 from the OS when SQL runs the createfile API. This is one that everyone probably recognises which is “access denied”. So the bottom line here was that I was getting access denied on the root of my mount point for tempdb (which is where I had placed the data files as part of setup configuration).

I checked through the other parts of setup and the rest of the system databases had managed to write to the root of other mount point drives (which seemed strange), and of more relevance, I noted that the SQL Server service accounts had been granted full access to the mount point root directories as part of the setup, so theoretically there ought not to be a permission error!

I spent a few hours digging around, tried the install again with new mount points and a clean position, but encountered the exact same problem. Eventually I figured that it was due to the fact that there are “issues” with the permissions on root mount points. This is distinctly not well documented within official MS sources (or not that I could find) and certainly not within the official pre-reqs.


The best I could find was a connect item here


a blog post here


and a forum post here


However the accepted workaround is that you should create a sub directory under the root of the mount point and then you’ll be fine. I’ll be trying this method next week as its 8pm on a Friday now and time for the weekend. If it works I’ll probably post a bug requesting that the documentation gets changed to point this out, as it would have me a whole lot of time.

As always, good luck with your setup……

Example of SQL Server collation usage and problems

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I was discussing with some developers this week why SQL Server collation mattered and what are typical things that can go wrong. This is a huge topic and is an often over looked feature of database and server design, especially when you want to build applications that run in multiple geographic locations and that should accept multiple language inputs. Being as I’ve worked extensively with the Finnish Swedish collation from my time working in Sweden, I have a reasonable level of understanding of some of the issues that can come up.

I wrote the following script to demonstrate an example of what can happen if you don’t get your collations correct. It’s probably the most common example I’ve seen over the years.

1. You have a SQL Server that is running one of the main Latin collations for English, be it UK, US, current windows collation or legacy SQL Server ones.

2. You have data from multiple languages stored in unicode columns such as nvarchar

3. You sort or search on the data and those people who have used data from non English languages that have special or extra characters in the alphabet, do not get the results that they expect.

This script only shows a fraction of the things that can actually go wrong, but it provides a simple demonstration of sorts and searches producing unexpected results. It creates its own database and tables on any test server you may choose to run it on (and then deletes them afterwards). It will work as a demo on any server as long as it’s not already running a Finnish Swedish collation.

use master

--i'm creating a non-default latin collation as per the legacy product I was looking at
--in this case however the results are the same as if you're running the more common default windows server collation 'Latin1_General_CI_AS'
create database collation_test collate SQL_Latin1_General_CP1_CI_AS

use collation_test

select SERVERPROPERTY('collation') as 'server collation'

select collation_name as database_collation from sys.databases where name = 'collation_test'

if exists
select name from sys.objects where name = 'collation_test' and type = 'u'

 drop table collation_test

create table collation_test
test nvarchar(10)

set nocount on

insert collation_test (test) values ('aaaa')
insert collation_test (test) values ('ääää')
insert collation_test (test) values ('åååå')
insert collation_test (test) values ('öööö')
insert collation_test (test) values ('bbbb')
insert collation_test (test) values ('zzzz')

set nocount off

print 'select the results from the tables in differing collations'
print 'in Swedish alphabet the characters åäö follow after Z as characters 27 to 29'
select test as "order in latin collation"
from collation_test
order by test

select test as "order in Finnish_Swedish_CI_AS collation"
from collation_test
order by test collate Finnish_Swedish_CI_AS

print 'do searches on the table'
print ''

select test as "search in latin collation"
from collation_test
where test > 'b'

select test as "search in Finnish_Swedish_CI_AS collation"
from collation_test
where test > 'b'
collate Finnish_Swedish_CI_AS

--clean up
use master
drop database collation_test

The bottom line is that if you want to do collations and mixed languages properly, you need to think about this stuff carefully at the design stage.

Some thoughts and follow up to KAM careers fair at KTH Stockholm

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The last 3 weeks of my UK day job have been a tad boring, but this is the case sometimes. I’ve just been trying to get a task out the door which involved lots of large TSQL code for reporting and data analysis. This type of thing leaves me cold and is not something I get involved with very often (well not in this century at least, I used to do this stuff in ’97/98 but hey….it was a favour for someone and it’s nearly done now!) anyway fortunately I was in Stockholm last week to talk at the Royal Institute of Technology careers days (Kungliga Tekniska högskolan Arbetsmarknadsdag for those Swedish speakers amongst you) which was a fantastic time.

I met some seriously intelligent people and enjoyed chewing the fat with many of them about starting out a career in the IT sector. I hope that I provided a rather different outlook to some of the speakers and exhibitors at the conference as I left school at 17 with no higher education whatsoever (let alone a bachelors or masters degree) and it took me 6 years or so to even get someone to give me a job remotely close to IT and another 2 to actually get myself placed in a real IT job in a software house. Add to this my rather varied career paths since which have veered between investment banks to year one start-ups and Microsoft, and I hope that I gave a different perspective to some of the students. it certainly felt like a success and the company I was representing (Basefarm – who I still consult for regularly) received a large number of applications for internships and employment.

As well as being on the Basefarm stand all day just chatting to whoever came along, I did a talk in the afternoon entitled “This much I know……” where I expanded on some of the above thoughts and compared and contrasted a number of different companies, company types, job types and locations and what they were like to work for, and how they had helped or hindered the development of my career. Hopefully those present learnt a few tips to help them mould their own career paths. I try to not make the talk into a lecture, because I don’t want to give the impression I know too much, or that I’m teaching people how they should act, it’s far more an approach of hoping that people will pick up tips and trends based on some of the things I’ve experienced along the way (both good and bad).

I’ll probably be doing similar stuff at other universities in Sweden over the next year so, but I’d be happy to be involved in any UK based ones as well, so if you’re organising a careers fair in the UK, please drop me a line if you’d be interested in having me along. My current employer in the UK, dotDigitalGroup, has taken on a large number of IT graduates over the years and I think it’s a testament to the company the number of technical employees that they still retain where it’s their first job after university. It’s quite uncommon in my experience for an organisation to be able to maintain such loyalty and I think it speaks volumes for how much people like working there. I think we’d be able to share some interesting career thoughts and possibilities with UK based students, so feel free to drop me a line if this sounds interesting to you.

Business card printing by moo.com

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I printed some new business cards for GlobalGoat Consultants this week, using my shiny new logo as designed by http://www.digitalgreen.co.uk/ . I used http://uk.moo.com/ for this service and can say that I was really happy with the results.

Their interface was both simple to use and suitably variable enough to allow me to get exactly what i wanted and their prices and quality of cards were excellent. I’ve used them before for other vanity projects in the past because I like the fact that as well as using your own images (or their stock ones if you like) you can use anything from your flickr library. I have thousands of flickr images built up over the past years and I used a selection of 8 of my favourites (mixed landscapes of the UK and Sweden) for the back of the business cards.

If you come and chat to me next week at Kista arbetsmarknadsdag then you might even get one 🙂

I’ll be speaking at Kista Arbetsmarknadsdag (KAM) next week – 28th March

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I’ll be speaking at Kista Arbetsmarknadsdag (KAM) next week on 28th March. It’s not a technical talk since it’s a career day for students, it’s a “this much I’ve learnt” type of talk about career building in the IT sector. I’ll be there representing Basefarm AB as I help then with their windows recruitment, as I know the recruitment market and the company from  my time in Stockholm.

I’m lucky enough to have had a fairly varied career in the IT sector, ranging from start-ups to Microsoft and in the talk I just compare and contrast some of the different things that come along in the course of an IT career.

I’ll also be on the Basefarm stand from time to time during the day, so please come along and say hello if you’re attending.

LAMP for a beginner, lessons from my WordPress build

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When I finally got round to rebuilding this site into its current format, I searched around for a while before choosing WordPress as the platform to put it together with. As a complete newbie to this platform, and also as a person who has mostly used Windows software for the past 15 years, there were a few things to learn along the way, and here’s some information about some of those points.

Firstly this breaks into 2 areas, client and server. When I say client in this case I refer to a laptop I use as a general machine for mail and stuff, but which is also the development environment. This machine is a very old Toshiba M70 from 2005 running a vanilla install Ubuntu 11.10. Being as a was a complete novice in terms of putting LAMP together I looked for suitable instructions online and found this


Which I can’t recommend enough as a great step by step guide. I had one problem on this which I documented in the comments of that article (which was not the fault of the article but a subsequent problem / config issue in webmin). The problem was that one couldn’t login to webmin at all after install even with root. When this was occurring I must say that I felt completely useless as I’m such a linux noob that I didn’t really know where to start troubleshooting. If this type of thing occurs in windows I just work it out using various tools, but in linux I’m quite stuck where to start. Anyway the solution was in the ubuntu forums here:


Beyond that the client build was very smooth and is happily up and running on my crappy old laptop.

On the server side I’m hosting with one.com who have been very good to me and were very efficient when I did my domain transfer last year from another provider who I won’t mention here 😉 The only thing you could say against one.com is that you only get one MYSQL database for your entire domain, so this could cause an issue to bigger more complex installs and sites maybe, but works just fine for me. The install was super simple exactly as WordPress documentation says it should be. I FTP’d the files over to the site and extracted them and I was pretty much up and running.

In terms of custom configuration I’m using the following:

Cruz theme – purchased through themeforest.net – not the most complex  theme compared to some, but very worth the small fee to purchase it. Very well documented as well.

BackupBuddy – this is a great plug in, it’s not cheap, but it does exactly what it says, it backs everything up with a click once its setup, plugins and all. Being a SQL guy you can be sure that I tested the restore process as well, and can also confirm that it was very simple and seems very stable. This also comes highly recommended. You can move the backup files here there and everywhere, either automated or manual and I push mine to Amazon S3 automatically from the plugin.

This is what I would consider the bare minimum, in that its deployed, it runs, I can develop on it in a separate environment and more importantly I can back it up.

I like to be plugin light currently, as it keeps it lower maintenance for me, and is less risk I feel, as I hate risk and don’t want to spend lots of time troubleshooting compatibility issues. So the only other things I run is

Google XML Sitemaps – which simply generates a sitemap – no more no less


SyntaxHighlighter Evolved – which deals with the rather nice code syntax for many different languages.

I did consider an SEO plugin, but decided for the moment that my needs were not worthly of such granular control, and also the more competent ones seemed to require a certain amount of config times (unsurprisingly considering the subject) which I wasn’t prepared to devote just now!

Overall I’m fairly happy with the experience. I did pay for a few things, but the prices were very reasonable and were well worth it in my opinion (especially the backup).