Do old exam transcripts matter?

There has been an interesting discussion in the MCT ranks about the disappearance of old exams from MCP transcripts. Anthony Borton has received confirmation from Microsoft that older exams that were part of retired certifications would be removed from transcripts. I think that’s a very poor choice for MS Learning to make but would be interested in your thoughts. Do old exams matter on transcripts?

RD and SQL MVP Kim Tripp married on the weekend

Great to see one of our friends, well-known SQL MVP and fellow RD Kimberley Tripp married on the weekend to no other than Paul Randall from the Micrsoft SQL product group. Paul’s also announced he’s leaving Microsoft to work with Kim. That’ll make a great team along with Bob Beauchemin.


I’m not sure if there’s truth to the rumor that Paul’s pickup line was “like to hear about some undocumented DBCC commands?” :-)

What is happening at QANTAS? (longish)

Local Microsoft DPE member Michael Kleef recently posted about the spate of maintenance problems he’s seen on QANTAS flights. I have to say I completely understand where he’s coming from. I also use QANTAS regularly and am also in their platinum frequent flyer tier.


Michael mentioned problems with the entertainment systems. I’d have to say that I can’t recall the last international flight I was on where these systems actually worked for the whole flight. Staff are endlessly apologising for them not working and trying to make it sound like it’s a one-off problem. It’s not. It’s routine.


Michael also mentioned problems with things like toilets flooded. Again, I’ve seen this sort of problem regularly. On a flight to Vancouver via LAX out of Melbourne recently, the captain had to explain to us after three hours flight that they’d discovered no water had been loaded onto the flight. Apparently someone had left a test-rig in place that made them think there was water when there wasn’t. Everyone was left wondering what else hadn’t been loaded that should have been. After considering diverting to Fiji or Tahiti (which apparently didn’t have appropriate facilities) and considering returning to Auckland, he decided to push on another five hours to Honolulu. That was another five hours of no water, no toilet flushing, etc. Sadly, the captain had to request passengers to avoid using the toilets at all.


It was also not surprising that when I got to Vancouver, once again I didn’t have my luggage. They tag platinum bags with yellow first class tags. That seems to make no difference as to whether or not they arrive. I feel like I’m getting to know various baggage handling people personally now. Nice as they are, I’d rather never needing to meet them but I find it’s now commonplace. The problems even occur on short hops. In December, I was on the first flight to Wellington for the day out of Sydney. My bag, however, was not with me yet again. (I often tell people it’s travelled way more than me). The baggage staff in Wellington said there were four flights a day and it’d likely be on the next one but alas it was on the last flight the next day ie: eight flights and two days later. No idea where it went in the meantime.


Scott Barnes mentioned in Michael’s comments that the only reason he sticks with them is the frequent flyer program but notes the points devaluation eighteen months back. But the frequent flyer program has also been gutted in recent years. I once used to worry about accruing points. Not any more. The devaluation that Scott mentioned was when QANTAS just unilaterally decided to reduce the value of all accrued points and to also make it more expensive to use them. Had they just stolen 20% of people’s points, there would have been mass revolt but they just decided to remove 20% of the value of the existing points. They also changed the system so that tier status points were harder to acquire. Previously a Brisbane to Sydney flight would have been 20 status points regardless of the fare basis. Now these flights became 10 points. This means that if you chose a flight with a lower fare (even though you may have already decided to go at a less ideal time to achieve that), you’d also earn half the points you used to. But the nail in the coffin as Scott mentioned was the devaluing of the existing points. It was simply unfair to those that had decided to save points rather than spending them regularly. In my case, the reason I was trying to save them for suddenly got 20% further away and I lost interest.


In terms of timeliness of flights, QANTAS had a push a year or so back for a high percentage of on-time departures. That has clearly evaporated. I cannot recall the last evening flight I’ve been on that left on time. Most weeks I’m on one or two evening flights. There’s always a reason but they’re basically always late.


I’ve had a number of flights over the last year where we have been boarded but then have to get back out of the plane and onto another plane because ours wasn’t going anywhere due to maintenance issues. While of course it’s great they find these preflight, the number of times it happens now has increased markedly. I had one recently where the transponder that reports position to air traffic control was broken. They found this after we had boarded. It would have been great for them to have found it in any of the hours that we (and the plane) had been sitting waiting on the long-delayed departure.


While some of the QANTAS lounges (particularly the wonderful new first class lounges in Melbourne and Sydney) are outstanding, others, particularly the one in Canberra are now appalling. Most times I’ve popped in there, it’s not possible to even find anywhere to sit. Given I often use them because I’m stuck at the airports for many hours and just want to get some work done, I used to give up and hire a room in the Canberra lounge so that was possible. But they’ve recently pushed the room hire price up to $40 per hour (was $20 per hour) so that’s not worthwhile now either. And you shouldn’t need to be hiring a room to have somewhere to sit and work in the first place. That’s advertised as one of the reasons for the clubs.


Another vestige of value in the frequent flyer program had been the seating preferences. I have my preference set to “rear, aisle”. Until a few weeks back, that meant that on every 737 flight, I’d be in 28C or D or 29C or D. I used to think it was funny when listening to the safety video that says “every time you flight you will no doubt be sitting in a different seat”. The reason I liked it is that the last seats in the plane to fill up were usually 28B or E or 29B or E ie: the center seats at the back of the plane. I can’t now remember the last time I was on a flight where these seats were empty. QANTAS seems to be achieving a very high loading factor on pretty much every flight I’m on. Routinely, there are no empty seats on the flights at all.


But in the last few weeks, the seating system has also gone crazy. Suddenly I’m getting allocated seats all over the plane again. On the flight to Vancouver I mentioned before, it’s pointless getting to use the new first class check-in counter in Melbourne only to be told you’ve been allocated a centre seat with no room or one with one of those wretched video systems that don’t work anyway removing most of your available footroom.


When I’ve spoken to the “premium” customer service folk about it, they’ve explained that having Internet check-in has now removed all their options to fix problems on the fly once they’ve happened, because everyone has already had seats allocated before they get to the airport. But when I asked why the seat preferences haven’t been applied first, they have no idea. They say they should have been. I was then told it might be because they have so many platinum members now that they “really need another tier”. I simply can’t believe that most of the people in the plane are platinum members, not given what they’ve done to the points system.


The irony in all this is that I get treated way better by QANTAS partner airlines because of my QANTAS status than I do by QANTAS themselves.


At present, I’d have to say the ONLY reason it’s worth being a frequent flyer member is avoiding some of the long queues. Regardless of what the brochures say, that’s the one benefit that I still find really helpful. If you spend a lot of time in airports, avoiding some of the huge queues is of great value.


I can only presume that the relatively monopolistic position that QANTAS have allows them to work they way they currently do. In terms of their frequent flyer program, it’s sad to see them treat their “friends” the way they now do.

Books: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I have to say I enjoyed author J K Rowling’s latest (and reportedly last) book in this series. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows strikes a pretty fast pace from beginning to end. For me, it all gets sorted out just a bit too conveniently at the end but she does answer most outstanding questions from the earlier books and she maintains strong continuity with them. Unlike several of the earlier books that start by repeating key aspects of the story so far (presumably for those who haven’t read the earlier books), this book gets straight into the new storyline without wasting time on a recap. I appreciated that. I’m sure this book has the best film-making material since the first book but it’ll no doubt be several years before we see one (presuming the franchise hasn’t run out of steam by then without a flow of new books to cross-promote the movies).


Recommended!


 (as is the whole series if you haven’t read them)


—– WARNING: PARTIAL SPOILERS BELOW HERE —-


 I liked the way that Snape’s role was finally explained. In the earlier books, he’d teetered between being a good guy and a bad guy. I wasn’t expecting the news of Dumbledore’s terminal injury and that worked quite well in explaining Snape’s role. However, I found Dumbledore’s participation in Harry’s “lamb to the slaughter” life a bit hard to swallow. It just didn’t really fit well with the rest of the story. Once again, I also found Voldemort’s role a bit odd, where he was so all-powerful, except when confronting Harry, even given how that’s explained. Setting the final chapter 19 years later was a nice finale. I liked Ron’s humor most of the way through the series and I liked his quip near the end of that final chapter. J K Rowling’s writing style has stayed quite consistent throughout the books and this continuity is evidence of that. Thanks for the series J K !


 

SQL Down Under Code Camp 2007 – Oct 13th/14th Wagga Wagga

Hi folks,


It’s on again. SQL Down Under code camp was a highlight of the year last year. This year promises to be even better. If you’d like to spend a weekend on SQL Server goodness, you need to be at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga on October 13th and 14th. Come on, you know you want to!


Details are at: www.sqldownunder.com.


If you are planning to come, please ensure you book asap as accomodation is likely to be limited this year. Security Camp Oz (www.securitycampoz.com) is on at the same venue at the same time. We’ve even kept the schedules identical so you can attend sessions from either camp as you please. Plus there is a vintage car show on in town the same weekend.


If you are coming, please email me at greg.low @ readify.net to help us with catering.

Two new mailing lists: SilverLight and MOSS

The SQL Down Under mailing list, the Biztalker mailing list and the OzTFS mailing list have all been very successful. We’ve now added two new special-interest mailing lists.


OzMOSS is a discussion list for MOSS. (mailto:listserver@ozmoss.com?subject=subscribe)


OzSilverLight is a discussion list for SilverLight. (mailto:listserver@ozsilverlight.com?subject=subscribe)


If MOSS or SilverLight are your “thing”, now’s the time to sign up and get involved! They say “Oz” but there are members from all over the world.


 

Books: Software Estimation: Demystifying the Black Art

Another great book I’ve read recently was Software Estimation: Demystifying the Black Art by Steve McConnell. Steve is the well-known author of Code Complete 2 which is widely regarded as a classic in the industry.


In this book, Steve takes a very pragmatic view at how software estimation might be carried out. He starts with some solid examples of how far off the mark we all are at estimating very basic things in our lives and our world and then shows how poorly software projects are estimated, almost without exception. I liked the way that he doesn’t try to pretend that you can get it very accurate but at least you can make estimates better. He provides lots of examples from a variety of methodologies and compares their effectiveness.


Recommended!

Books: Fat, Forty and Fired

While on the way to/from CodeCampSA this weekend, I ended up reading a wonderful little book by Nigel Marsh called Fat, Forty and Fired. It’s described as one man’s story of losing his job and finding his life. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I mentioned it to the guys at the Code Camp and Dave Glover from Microsoft also mentioned how much he’d liked it.


It’s a story about an advertising executive that decides to take Steve Biddulph’s advice in Manhood that every man should take his 40th year off from work. It covers his trials and tribulations during that year, including some pretty funny material in the “Mr Mom” category.


Highly recommended!