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[geek] gripe otd

Every single book on SQL I have (total of 4) has been largely useless in either of these two situations:

1. Someone put a [x function] in this query. I wonder what it does?
2. I need a function that does [y thing]. I bet it exists, let's see if I can find it.

Every single time, a quick IM to a friend is what's more likely to get me an answer, and failing that, using the internet. Recent example: Our DBA wrote up a quick script for me to use against some obscure table she created. It contained isnull(revenuefield, 0.0). Being a n00b, I didn't know this meant "when the field contains NULL, instead return 0.0". Half the books didn't even list this function. The other half said it did something totally unrelated and was in a context completely seperate from the one I'm looking at. Typically, I annoy Jack and interrupt him doing his job to help him do mine, but since he's not so familiar with MSSQL this didn't help. It was the intarnet that finally helped me figure out what the heck was going on.

Stupid expensive tech texts die die die! Who writes these things! Why don't they make any sense!

And I have a sinking feeling someone's going to pop up and say "this is all because of Microsoft, you tool/fool."



( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 22nd, 2005 07:39 pm (UTC)
Re: Reference
bookmarked :) although i will say that i am not fond of their frames or format or whatever the heck that is they have going on there.
Re: Reference - rakin - Jun. 22nd, 2005 07:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 22nd, 2005 07:39 pm (UTC)
see!! i knew it!! :)
Jun. 22nd, 2005 07:19 pm (UTC)
Books on SQL are so ten years ago. Just go to google, type in

SQL Server "y thing"

and look there. You'll get hits faster than books in most cases. But for MS SQL Server specifically, get a client CD and get the Books Online program. It's FANTASTIC.
Jun. 22nd, 2005 07:38 pm (UTC)
That's exactly what I did that worked, btw.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 22nd, 2005 07:37 pm (UTC)
I even made a post a while back about which books to buy, trusting my friends list, and purchased based on their recommendations. The problem is, even browsing I never know what I'm going to need or what question I'll be trying to answer until I need it. I should compile a list of questions and keep them with me and test every book against them. Except that I'm so too lazy for that.
(no subject) - bizarrojack - Jun. 22nd, 2005 09:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bizarrojack - Jun. 22nd, 2005 09:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bizarrojack - Jun. 22nd, 2005 09:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - blacktimberwolf - Jun. 22nd, 2005 09:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - bizarrojack - Jun. 23rd, 2005 12:55 am (UTC) - Expand
pt. 2, linux networking - bizarrojack - Jun. 23rd, 2005 01:33 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 22nd, 2005 07:54 pm (UTC)
Library school BS
This is how most high-level technical types get most of their information! When studied they always express either frustration or contempt with books and talk about how they ask their peers first.

I just thought it was important for you to know that you are not alone.
Jun. 22nd, 2005 08:34 pm (UTC)
Re: Library school BS
I was wondering if it's just me, like it's a learning style thing, as in I am illiterate and have to be spoon fed everything.
Re: Library school BS - jsciv - Jun. 22nd, 2005 11:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Library school BS - snidegrrl - Jun. 23rd, 2005 04:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 22nd, 2005 09:38 pm (UTC)
We had an error on our computer at work and the IT guy looked it up on the internet right there in front of me. I'm thinking "I need to take some night classes so I can have his job."
Jun. 22nd, 2005 09:51 pm (UTC)
99% of computer skill nowadays is knowing how to obtain an Internet connection, and then the manner in which one should conduct a search in order to return the most useful information.

The hard part is understanding how the people who put all this information on the web in the first place expect you to be searching for it. This is why before becoming a technical guru, you must first spend at least three years in the company of computer types, under cover of the pretence of getting a degree.
(no subject) - snidegrrl - Jun. 23rd, 2005 05:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snidegrrl - Jun. 23rd, 2005 05:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snidegrrl - Jun. 23rd, 2005 05:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 22nd, 2005 09:48 pm (UTC)
I'm one of the people on the opposite end of this. I get asked.

(Incidentally, I learnt T-SQL in about three months using not one book. Just shattered remnants of a University course I slept through, the SQL Server help, and Google.)

Incidentally, as far as I'm concerned, I don't mind being asked about the language. What pisses me off is being asked the same question more than twice. Or being taken away from my work for something that is blatantly available through help or trial-and-error, like "Do you call this with brackets or without?"

And as another aside, directed particularly at certain areas of the Open Source community, "I don't know" tends to be far more honest and effective response than "It's in the manual page" (when it isn't), "It's due to unusual hardware" (when the original user is using one of the most common hardware combinations available) or "It's on the web" (when Google contains three links, one irrelevant, one dead and one in an untranslateable language.) I know there's a whole community of clueless users who will ask endless pointless questions just for the sheer hell of tying up time... but this seems to have spawned a reactive culture who are so eager to use a stock putdown they don't actually bother to read the question they've been put first.

Sorry. I've turned a small comment about how to learn SQL and ask questions of technical peers into an irrelevant rant about... something or other. I'll shut up now.
Jun. 23rd, 2005 05:01 pm (UTC)
hehehe... never give me your IM!! i am totally that guy.

to be fair, i am not a programmer, nor have i ever been. i am learning sql in order to provide data to the marketing department, so you can guess that i am not exactly in a super techie position. i'm confident my boss has been frustrated by me asking her something i could have got to through trial and error, but since i'm going at this all bass-ackwards i never know what trial to try or what the error means once i've tried it. it doesn't help me much that the error messages from Microsoft SQl Query Analyzer where i write 100% of my queries are... not so helpful.

trust me, i'm more frustrated that my brain doesn't seem to work like a programmer's brain and that i'm having to ask these questions... at least i try to do it with grace and humility. :)

p.s. nice icon.
Jun. 23rd, 2005 02:37 am (UTC)
I find that one of the reasons that the SQL books aren't very helpful is because they are relegated to covering general SQL, and not the specific stuff that each database has at your fingertips. Most of the functions, and things like that, aren't standardized, for the most part. So, what works in MS SQL Server may or may not work in Oracle, Sybase, PostgreSQL, Informix, or what have you.

Luckily, you have already mastered one of the great instincts of the programmer: "There must be a function for this!" I'm serious! This is how programmers learn new languages. We start writing code, we are confronted by a seemingly conventional problem that we don't want to write code for, and then we say, "There must be a function for this!"
Jun. 23rd, 2005 05:06 pm (UTC)
So once I've said, "there must be a function for this!" where do I go from there? Hindsight is always 20/20 for these things. (I know this is probably not a question you can just answer but not matter hos simple or elementary your advice might be, I promise, I need it.)
Jun. 23rd, 2005 02:45 am (UTC)
I've had this problem with some of my protege's at the office as well. The turning point is usually when I tell them to stop searching for MSSQL on google, but T-SQL, which is the dialect spoken by MS Sql Server. SQL is supposed to be a unified language off in happy database candyland, but don't be deceived - the modern database landscape looks more like the Balkans circa 1916.
Jun. 23rd, 2005 05:07 pm (UTC)
haha!! thanks for the tip, i will try that next time.
Jun. 23rd, 2005 02:51 am (UTC)
I look in the books for about 5 minutes and then I go on the internet and research that bidneh. Like, I'm on Oracle 9i so I go to searchoracle.com and see what people are actually writing out in the real world.

You can find almost any script out there somewhere. It's amazing. This is how I troubleshoot code that I either inherited or I'm helping one of my team fix.

And no, it's not just M$ - we're running Oracle 9i on a friggin' UNIX server and M$ has nothing to do with what we're doing, and it's still outrageous. The books tell you what's possible - but bulletin boards and database forums tell you what's being done.

Just a tip from your neighborhood DBA. :D
Jun. 23rd, 2005 05:08 pm (UTC)
Re: Hi.
I wish you were MY DBA!!! I would bring you offerings and sacrifices.

I jest, our DBA has been pretty nice to me so far. But I have a feeling someday I'm going to find out why everyone else walks on eggshells around her.
Jun. 23rd, 2005 05:42 am (UTC)
SQL suxors
SQL is truly perverse. This is my favorite T-SQL recently, only took me a day or two to work out...

SELECT ebnos.tstamp, AVG(Coincidences.[sout]) AS 'Stations Out', COUNT(DISTINCT ebnos.station) AS 'Total Stations'
(SELECT ebnos.tstamp, [sout]=COUNT(ebnos.station)
FROM ebnos ebnos
WHERE (ebnos.ebno = 0)
GROUP BY ebnos.tstamp
HAVING COUNT(ebnos.station) > 1) Coincidences ON ebnos.tstamp = Coincidences.tstamp
GROUP BY ebnos.tstamp
Jun. 23rd, 2005 05:10 pm (UTC)
Re: SQL suxors
i'm already confused, there are two from statements in there. that is something i have not yet seen. other than that i kind of recognize everything!
( 32 comments — Leave a comment )


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