Learning Mandarin and Windows Vista

Some readers will know that I’ve been learning Mandarin lately. It’s been really interesting. Most people assume I want to do it because my wife Mai is of Chinese Vietnamese heritage. No such luck as her family speak Tieu Chow, a dialect spoken mainly in part of Vietnam, part of Cambodia and part of Southern China.

One in four children born in the world today speak Chinese. I’ve always heard it was really hard but have decided to tackle it anyway.

I’ve enabled my Windows Vista system for Chinese input as I’m determined to learn to write as well as read. The way the Chinese input works in Vista is quite fascinating and I’ll post a bunch of details on that another day.

I thought I’d document the methods I’ve been using. First I tried a number of CD-based systems. I haven’t found any of them very useful. They’re all sort of ok but I don’t think any of the ones I’ve tried does a great job.

From info I got on the RD mailing list, I heard about ChinesePod. Now I can’t wait to get my daily dose of Ken and Jenny, direct from ShangHai. They post a daily podcast about ten minutes in length that covers some basic aspect of common speech. It’s excellent as is the way they break it down and describe it. They have different podcasts for different levels of study: Newbie, Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced.

I talked Mai into learning as well and we (well maybe mostly I) decided to get a real kick along by attending a class. We did the summer intensive class at Red Crane in Collins St. in Melbourne. Red 1 is a class that normally runs for 10 weeks with 2 hours per week. For the summer intensive class, you attend for 5 nights, they do 2 classes per night and you attend twice per week. So in just two and a half weeks, you’ve done the 10 week first level. Again, this was an excellent class. I’m trying to work out how I can now fit Red 2 into my schedule.

I am truly surprised how much we’ve learned already and listening to ChinesePod has simply accelerated that. Both are highly recommended !



SQL Server 2008 – How effective was my backup compression?

I’ve had a number of people ask me how you can tell if the backup compression in SQL Server 2008 really is effective. The easy answer is to try it and look at the results.

To compress a backup, you need to choose the “Compress Backup” option at the bottom of the Options tab in SQL Server Management Studio. Once the backup is done, you can see how effective it was by executing:


This command has been enhanced to have two columns dealing with backup size. One shows the Backup Size, the other shows the Compressed Backup Size. (Both in bytes).

Playing videos and sound in Windows Server 2008 using a Virtual PC (VPC)

Over recent weeks, I’ve been involved in building some of the launch materials for the worldwide SQL Server launch events later this year. In the filestream section, I wanted to play a wmv file ie: a video. I thought “that can’t be too hard”. I was wrong on that. I’ve now spent a long time working out what’s needed. In the end, it’s trivial to do. You just have to know what to do. After much googling, all I found were people with lots of questions and few answers.

Here’s what you need to do:

1. If you’re using Virtual Server (ie: not Virtual PC), you’re out of luck. You need Virtual PC 2007. Virtual PC 2007 emulates a sound card. Virtual Server doesn’t.

2. The sound card is listed as a soundblaster16 compatible. I saw heaps of web sites that suggest you force the old sound blaster drivers off your XP disks to install. Don’t do that !

3. When you install Virtual Machine Additions in Virtual PC, it installs a folder C:\Program Files\Virtual Machine Additions. This folder contains virtualized drivers that you need for sound. Go into Device Manager, right click the multimedia audio driver and choose “Update Driver”. Point it at that folder and soon the audio will work.

(Thanks to Virtual Server MVP Dugie -> Andrew Dugdell -> for telling me about that folder).

4. Windows Server 2008 is resistant to installing Windows Media Player 11.  It comes up with really helpful messages that tell you that “no updates are available for your computer at this time. try again later”. I found web sites that suggested unpacking the installer file (it’s a winrar file) and just running the wmp11 setup part. That doesn’t work either and returns “not enough storage on your computer to complete the operation”.

5. What none of these messages is telling you is that you don’t have the “Desktop Experience Feature” enabled on Windows Server 2008. Enable it from “Server Manager” -> Features -> Add a feature. After a reboot and some update installations, you’ll then find you automagically have Windows Media Player.

(Thanks to my Solid Q colleague Daniel Seara for that one).

At this point, all should be good. Hope this helps someone else.



SQL Down Under show 27 – SQL Legend – David Campbell

Regular readers will notice that I’ve stepped up the pace of podcasts lately. I’m intending to maintain a one-per-week pace now. Last week, I was pleased to have had old friend Chris Randall on the show. Recording today’s show was another real treat. David Campbell agreed to be on the show.

Dave is another of the people that I’d consider to be real legends in the SQL Server group, having come across to Microsoft (from DEC) back in 1994. He went on to be one of the key folk involved in totally replacing the query processing engine, etc. in SQL Server 7. And, as they say, the rest is history. He is currently a Microsoft Technical Fellow.

In the show, Dave gives us background on the product but spends most of the time on the show discussing how SQL Server 2008 is now built and giving us insights into that process. We discussed the pros and cons of the new SQL Server CTP mechanism in some detail.

The show is now available for download from www.sqldownunder.com.

The good news is that I’ve got some other really great guests lined up to appear on the show. I’m really looking forward to the show that I’ll be recording tomorrow but I’ll keep that a secret until I release it last next week. In the meantime, I really hope you’ll enjoy the show with Dave Campbell.

SQL Server 2008 Readiness Events in Australia coming up

Sharmilla Gosai and our friends at Microsoft Australia have announced SQL Server 2008 readiness events. These include jumpstart sessions specifically targets at administrators, developers and business intelligence professionals. These events offer up-to-date content at a low cost.

The developer event runs for two days and is being offered in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.

For administrators, there is a one day event. As well as Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, it will be running in Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane.

The one day BI event is running in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane.

You can book early at: https://partner.microsoft.com/Australia/40039523