Speaking at PASS Summit and why you need to think about submitting….

This post is about the honor and experience of speaking at PASS Summit not once (2016) but twice (2017).

I recently received an email from PASS HQ that asked past speakers to share our success stories – to help others consider submitting for PASS Summit as a speaker.

This is an easy one for me – as I loved speaking at PASS Summit a lot.
Both times I learnt so many different things that helped me grow not only as a speaker but as a data platform technologist.

This is the first thing that I want to pass onto others who are considering submitting.

You will learn a lot:

When preparing a presentation you learn a lot when you prepare a presentation. You want to be ready to have questions. When selecting a topic I want to know as much about it to answer the questions attendees might have. Not just the basic questions but the more advanced ones that will help them implement/change the setup of whatever technology I am talking about.

The flow on effect of this was one particular area I was talking on (SQL Server on Linux) helped the company I was working at as it changed our direction and usage of the product. Now that is definitely a win | win situation!!

As a speaker I learnt a lot about speaking to crowds of people who are engaged and also want to learn from you.  This helped me grow as a speaker as I spent more time on preparation – so that I could deliver the content really well at an event like PASS Summit.

Disclaimer: I personally think I have a way to go before I’m a really effective speaker – but I speak about Continuous Improvement with technology so happy to embrace this with my speaking craft.

Here is your chance to pay it forward:

For years I had been a consumer of content, whenever I had an issue there were people who had written resolutions which had helped me with just about every part of our technology stack. I had also attended free conferences like SQLSaturday and Code Camp and had learnt so much that helped me manage/deploy/tune SQL Server.

By standing up in front of people I was replaying all the kindness of those people who had given up their time to help me. My tag line has always been “I speak so that I can help at least one person in the crowd learn..”.

The great thing has been after both my PASS Summit sessions I’ve had people stay behind and ask questions – which is great as it means that people were engaged and got something out of my session.

You are now part of a group of people who really care:

My first ever speaking engagement was with my good friend Martin Catherall, for years I had seen him speak and he was good enough to put in a co-speaking session for us both at SQLSaturday Oregon in October 2015. It was brilliant as it allowed me to try my hand at speaking with my good mate next to me for support.

By being part of the speaker group I then met some of the most awesome caring people, who really care about the community.

Start small and achieve greatness:

So let’s say you want to start speaking and giving back to the community, a great place to start and practice for speaking at PASS Summit is to support your local user group.

For a couple of reasons:

  1. It allows you to become an expert of your material and to grow in confidence as a speaker. Speaking to a room of 20 people whom I knew was a very rewarding experience and allowed me to get feedback on my material before going large.
  2. I run a user group and am always on the lookout for grass roots speakers and will support them by offering a slot at my SQL Server User Group. Because one of the hardest parts of running a User Group is finding speakers.
    So you know — win | win.

After speaking at a local user group — submit to your local SQLSaturday. I also run one and for the past 3 years I have offered new speakers the chance to speak in front of a larger more disparate crowd than their local User Groups.

So go ahead — think of a topic, write an abstract and submit!!

We need speakers like you in the community and PASS Summit needs more speakers to submit — so please take the plunge.  If nothing else — you now have a subject that you can support your local user groups and community conferences with.

The ultimate is that you get picked for PASS Summit and in a year or two write about your own experiences to help incubate another person to make a positive difference in our vibrant community.



Why I am leaving a role/company I loved

This non-technical post is about why I am leaving a technical company after working there for 17 + years.

If you are thinking this will be a post that will resemble this:

DevOPs is never about burning bridges

then I’m sorry but you will be sadly disappointed.

My reasons for leaving are about doing new things rather than hating on the old things…

I resigned from my position as Operations Manager at Jade Software on 22nd December 2017, it was the 6,311th day that I had worked there. It was also the 6,969th day of my IT career — it seemed the right kind of day to do something huge.

Some people would say — but you didn’t work 6,311 days there — you’re counting weekends too!! To which I’d reply that when you work for a company that is energetic about doing things — it is infectious to be thinking about work on the weekends or writing emails/planning future work/projects.

It’s funny looking back at my time there — I originally was only going to work 23 months but I found after a year that I loved working there.

If you look at the longevity of the people that work there — there are people who’ve worked there over 30 years. It is that kind of company where people who are passionate about technology and stuff — stay. And they’re good people too!!

These people could easily leave and get really good money elsewhere. But they don’t because we believed in what we were doing there, that a lot of other things at Jade outweighed more money.

I was very lucky during my time at Jade to be part of a team of guys who were passionate, brilliant and committed to what we were doing. We socialised together and shared a love of getting the work done and having a beer, and eating hot n spicy food.

I think there is some saying that goes “why do do you go to work each day?” and the answer is “the people”. The reason I stayed so long at Jade was the people and the fact that every 5-8 years the company reinvented itself and/or did a stepwise change. It was exciting to be part of that. The culture at Jade was one of striving for excellence and also having fun along the way.

In some respects I used to think of Jade as this beautiful woman who was like a fickle mistress…. As at times I would drop everything to do things for my job. And have to explain to those dear to me why I was doing such things. Because it was awesome brilliant times making things – that others struggled with – work.

In a sense for those who loved this Jade woman – she consumed us, was at time a jealous lover but rewarded us well. As all fickle mistresses should.

On the day I resigned I bought 6 bottles of the wine below which inspired the above sentence (Note: I did not drink all 6 bottles at once to come up with the sentence above)

Jade – the most enjoyable yet fickle of all mistresses….

So why leave?

One of the reasons I am leaving is so that there is a breath of fresh air within Operations.  16 years ago today (7/1/2002) I started as the Operations Team Leader – a newly created role and so I’ve led my team through new technologies, company-wide redundancies, introduction of SQL Server, NT4 —-> Windows 2016, removal of everyone being oncall and even PowerShell.

My aim over those years was to manage as I’d want to be managed. That we were a team which meant that my staff’s opinions mattered more than my own and that I wanted to be told if I was wrong – but I fully expected an answer/solution to what I was doing that was wrong. My staff knew that at 3am they could call me if they were stuck and if necessary I’d drive into work — because I expected the same. I didn’t like the word ‘manager’ as that just reminded me of David Brent like paper shufflers. I wanted to lead my team and for them to actively participate in the direction we’d go.

As a team.

BTW – telling my team I was resigning was hard.

Really hard.

The other reason I am leaving is around the fact that I left home when I was 18, I went to university to study Chemical Engineering in another city.

Leaving my (small) home town of Napier was hard at the time, in fact the first year was hell. But worth it — as it made me the man I am today.

And that in lies the analogy I’m using for leaving Jade, I learnt so many wondrous cool things whilst working there, my talent was incubated by some of the most technically brilliant people I’ve met. I matured as a person both technically and socially and now is time to leave ‘home’ again. To leave the confines and security of a job I loved and go out into the real world again.


I want to try my hand at consulting (and contracting) — some exciting news soon…

I want to help companies achieve some of the awesome stuff we did at Jade around DevOPs and specifically with databases.

I want to continue to make a difference in the community and help people learn (and laugh).

I want to make a fair bit of money so I can (finally) upgrade my car.

This next part of my career will be exciting, I am a little nervous about what the first few years will be like, but I feel it is time to leave. That nervousness BTW is what I use to drive myself, I thrive on energy whether it is good energy and not-so-good energy like stress. Before I speak — around 2 hours before I look like I’m going to throw up and a mess. But that is my way of centering myself and getting ready to make people laugh and learn.

So for the past 2 weeks — each day I have confronted the nervousness that I feel and remember how I felt on 11th September 2000 when I drove to my first day at Jade — I wrote a list of things I wanted to learn in the first 3 months…. because I was nervous I didn’t know enough. Thanks to some guys who would later become senior members of my team I’d learnt those things within 2 weeks.

That is the special kind of place Jade was — where the right kind of people would help you out, would go out of their way and also make you feel like ‘family’.  If I ever employ enough staff to have a team again I want to emulate what I did and the culture we had at Jade.

I’ll be sad to leave but so glad I stayed.


Changing TFS to use HTTPS? — update your agent settings too….

This blog post is about Team Foundation Server (TFS) and is about the situation where you need remember to update your TFS Agent settings.

I will assume that you already have TFS setup and are just using HTTP and want to make things a bit more secure with HTTPS. I am also assuming that you will be using port 443 for HTTPS traffic.

To update TFS to use HTTPS you need to do a couple of things:

  1. Have a legitimate certificate installed on the server that you can bind to
  2. Have an IP address on the server and have firewall access setup to that IP address on port 443

So in IIS we will add our new binding to our Team Foundation Server website:

IIS Setup for new binding of HTTPS

We will now go into TFS Administration Console to change our public URL. The added HTTPS binding will have flowed through from IIS and you should now see it in the bindings.

HTTPS Setup TFS Admin
Adding our URL to TFS Admin Console



So now we have HTTPS working for our TFS instance. Users can connect to the new URL and we can utilise URL rewriting to direct anyone who forgets and uses HTTP.

Except our first nightly builds failed…

HTTPS Agent failed
Automated Nightly Build Failure

Looking at the diagnostic logs on the agent we can see the following (note the time is UTC time):

[2017-12-07 13:30:05Z ERR Program] System.Net.Http.HttpRequestException: An error occurred while sending the request. —> System.Net.Http.WinHttpException: A security error occurred at System.Runtime.CompilerServices.TaskAwaiter.ThrowForNonSuccess(Task task)
at System.Runtime.CompilerServices.TaskAwaiter.HandleNonSuccessAndDebuggerNotification(Task task)
at System.Net.Http.WinHttpHandler.<StartRequest>d__101.MoveNext()
— End of inner exception stack trace —
at Microsoft.VisualStudio.Services.Common.VssHttpRetryMessageHandler.<SendAsync>d__3.MoveNext()
— End of stack trace from previous location where exception was thrown —

The logs also showed that the agent was trying to go to the old address. So it was a simple change to the agent settings to point to HTTPS address.

Browsing to where the agent is installed we can now edit the .Agents file:

Editing the .agent file

Within the .agent file we will change the following setting:

serverUrl: https://YourURL/tfs/

Kick off a queued build and it works as intended.



SSRS won’t bind HTTPS to new certificate — “We are unable to create the certificate binding”

This blog post is around the situation where you have SSRS setup to use HTTPS and thus using a certificate and the certificate expires (or just needs replacing). We had caught the initial error via our Continuous Monitoring of the SSRS site — basically when the certificate expired we got an exception and alerted on it.

The client installed a new certificate but the issue arose where in Reporting Service Configuration Manager we went to use the new certificate but when we chose it we got this error:

We are unable to create the certificate binding

SSRS Cert issue
Error in SSRS Configuration Manager

And Reporting Service Configuration Manager removes the HTTPS binding.

We checked and the certificate is installed correctly.

So we looked in SSRS logs:

C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSRS11.<instance>\Reporting Services\LogFiles

It is amazing for a reporting system how badly errors are reported in the log files. Basically there was nothing in there at all:

rshost!rshost!964!12/11/2017-08:13:47:: e ERROR: WriteCallback(): failed to write in write callback.
rshost!rshost!2aa4!12/11/2017-08:13:47:: e ERROR: Failed with win32 error 0x03E3, pipeline=0x00000002780A7D80.
httpruntime!ReportServer_0-33!2aa4!12/11/2017-08:13:47:: e ERROR: Failed in BaseWorkerRequest::SendHttpResponse(bool), exception=System.Runtime.InteropServices.COMException (0x800703E3): The I/O operation has been aborted because of either a thread exit or an application request. (Exception from HRESULT: 0x800703E3)
 at Microsoft.ReportingServices.HostingInterfaces.IRsHttpPipeline.SendResponse(Void* response, Boolean finalWrite, Boolean closeConn)
 at ReportingServicesHttpRuntime.BaseWorkerRequest.SendHttpResponse(Boolean finalFlush)
library!ReportServer_0-33!2aa4!12/11/2017-08:13:47:: e 

--- End of inner exception stack trace ---;

We knew that HTTP was working all good so SSRS itself was “ok”. So on a hunch we decided to see if the old certificate was still lying around bound to something and so using netsh:

NETSH showing the old certificate bound

So we then removed the binding — which was safe enough as only SSRS was serving web requests on this server — IIS was not being used at all.:

netsh http delete sslcert ipport=[::]:443

SSRS netsh delete
Removing the certificate that was still bound to port 443

We could then bind the new certificate in Reporting Service Configuration Manager:

SSRS now bound
SSRS is now happy and listening on port 443


So hopefully if you get this type of error you too can solve it nice and quickly and have your web service URL and Report Manager URL nice and secure again…


How the gym made me a better database bloke…..

A blog post about how many reverse bicep curls or Romanian DeadLifts I can do…? As Rob Farley (t | b | w) would succinctly put it — “what the…??”

No it’s not.

But it’s related — if you’ve met me in person you’ll know that I’m tall – 6 foot 3 if I stand properly and generally within about 69 minutes of talking I’ll mention I used to be 130kg. I used to physically hurt as my back was not strong enough to carry that bulk around.

Something had to change.

I changed my eating habits, drinking habits (beer is a treat not a standard these days) and went to the gym.

I love data. More specifically I love numbers. And that was how I started liking the gym. I lift weights and do cardio and I initially record all the numbers associated with each session.

How many kilometers I biked, how much I could bench-press and how many repetitions I could do. And then — how many kgs I could lose.

I lost 16kg in 6 weeks during one period…

…..that was intense but rewarding.

Now as part of lifting weights I wanted to swap body fat for muscle. So I looked at how to build muscle. It involves tearing the muscle, which repairs itself and gets bigger.

Here is a link if you’re interested:


On 11th September this year I celebrated 17 years at Jade Software. 17 years……

Yeah. It has been a pretty cool ride and my career has changed whilst being there – which is one reason why many people stay so long there.

But after 17 years I started to think — how can I grow my technical & management knowledge more?

By tearing my established skills a little.

So I have embarked on tearing my skills, by making myself slightly uncomfortable in the sense of technology & also management (I’m an Operations Manager after all).

I also read a lot of blogs/articles/websites whilst running on a treadmill, whilst hating running on a treadmill. It helps for 2 reasons:

Makes me forget I’m running on a treadmill.

I’m learning stuff.

So over the past 3 weeks I’ve spent most nights putting myself out of my comfort zone.

I’ve installed Team City and help DEV configure it.

I’ve learned heaps about running SQL Server on Docker.

I’ve learned a fair bit about Docker in the process…

I’ve done a lot more in Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS) than I have in the past year.

I’ve found out how brilliant the tools from RedGate (w )are in a DevOps Database deployment pipeline – namely Database Lifecycle Management

This is about extending myself, tearing my brain muscle to make it stronger (metaphorically bigger). To be able to extend how I use the Data Platform offered by Microsoft to:


But I’m not stopping there.

There are other areas coming up that I really want to tear it up in:

Running Kubernetes on Azure

Tuning SQL indexes like a boss (refer Rob Farley..)


Passing SQL exams — my last Microsoft certification was as a MCSE (NT4.0)

Become the guy who helps people migrate from TFS to VSTS

All of the above will benefit me.

Most of the above will benefit the company I work for.

That surely is a good reason to keep going to the gym.



SQL Server 2017 — change the tag for your docker images


SQL Server 2017 is now officially released!

I have been using SQL Server 2017 running on Linux for a while now (blog post pending) and use the official images from:


To get the latest I used to run

docker pull microsoft/mssql-server-linux:latest

However today I noticed that the :latest tag had been removed:


~$ docker pull microsoft/mssql-server-linux:latest
Error response from daemon: manifest for microsoft/mssql-server-linux:latest not found

From the site above I read:

You may notice that the :latest tag has been removed. Please use the new tags going forward – either :2017-GA or :2017-latest.

So to get the latest image I just now run:

docker pull microsoft/mssql-server-linux:2017-latest

To get the Generally Available image:

docker pull microsoft/mssql-server-linux:2017-GA

When I started the container up and connected with SQL Server Management Studio I noticed that the version had jumped up a bit:

Original Image:


GA & Latest:


For now GA and Latest are the same version (kind of makes sense seeing as it was only released today….).

And of course the beauty of all this is that if I need to spin up different SQL Server versions it literally takes seconds to run:

docker start SQLServer-Docker-2017-GA

or when I need to use my old image, stop that one above and spin this back up:

docker start SQLServer-Docker-DEV

Which I imagine would be quite a powerful thing to have in an automated database deployment pipeline….

… with some automated testing going on.

If you are in Seattle in a little over a month please check out my session:


It’ll hopefully show you how to #MakeStuffGo


Want to know what software is running on the VSTS Hosted Agent? Go here….

This is related to my previous post about installing things on my Private-Hosted agent that I use for my VSTS builds.

I have never had any issues using Microsoft’s Hosted Agents — my only issue is that I use up the 240 free build minutes (so utilise my own on-premises agent)

So there is a website that lists all the software that is installed on the machines that run the Hosted VSTS agents and it is here and is updated daily:


It has made me re-think my strategy about my on-premises builds — I have thought about splitting off my SSDT build steps into their own process — running on my agent and the other stuff running in Hosted.

However — one thing I did implement just recently was doing builds in parallel — which took my build from 34 seconds down to 9 seconds.

build in parallel

Now that might just be the tipping point for going back to Hosted VSTS Builds….