Shane on April 25th, 2008

Last year, when our home briefly went without Microsoft Windows in our unsuccessful Mac experiment, one of the applications I had the most difficult time replacing was Microsoft Money. I had been using it for 3+ years to track our net worth and experiment a little with budgeting. I tried using Quicken for the Mac, which came installed with our MacBook, but it was a big step backwards. It was far more tedious than MS Money. I wanted to make my life easier and spending 50% more time balancing our accounts and tracking expenses was not the direction I wanted to go.

Enter Wesabe.

I was an early adopter for Wesabe, but hadn’t really used my account since I had first signed up. When I took my second go at it, the user community was much larger, and thus the benefits of social collaboration were more apparent. For example, entering data was a snap because over half of my merchant ids — which I see on my transactions — had already been cleaned up.

Last week, they made another step forward in building value on top of their user data: better merchant reviews. Tying transaction amounts to reviews ties together two data points in a unique mix that vastly improves their recommendation engine.

I have not done much rating on Wesabe until now, but I will start to contribute now that I see the value I can get out of this community tool.

Shane on April 17th, 2008

I love seeing companies trying unconventional ways to motivate their employees to keep them healthy, happy, and more productive.

The folks at 37 Signals have always been pushing this envelope. They have a small office in Chicago, but less than half of their (dozen or so) employees work there with the rest are spread out around the globe. They build software that enables collaboration online, so I suppose this work model is dogfooding for them.

Their latest experiment, over the last year, was to switch to a four day workweek. It started as a summertime experiment — something that was common in my days in academia — but worked so well that they kept it going year-round. After almost a year, the results are in, and they are getting things done!

At the core of this adoption is a philosophy that emphasizes planning and strategy over reactivity. How often have you stretched yourself to get something done only to find out your colleague or client didn’t even glance at your product until days (or months!) later?

One thing I’ve come to realize is that urgency is overrated. In fact, I’ve come to believe urgency is poisonous. Urgency may get things done a few days sooner, but what does it cost in morale? Few things burn morale like urgency. Urgency is acidic.

This is a simple way to switch your group from working in tactical to strategic mode: raise the bar on what you consider an emergency. If you need to make a case for this, then take notes on each emergency you fix, and then report to your supervisor what the result of that emergency fix was. How long did it take for your “fix” to be consumed downstream? What strategic goals were put on hold in the time you spent?


Shane on April 16th, 2008

I might need to come up with more material to blog about so that this doesn’t become a list of articles that somebody else if feeding me.


Shane on April 14th, 2008

A friend of mine from a way back, Mike Mettler, broadcasts these URLs every once in a while through his GMail profile. Mike is a smart guy, and the articles usually deal with some issue that is out there simmering but hasn’t come to a boil yet. They lay out a problem (often one that I haven’t heard of yet, and usually propose a solution). Good fodder for thought and discussion.

For example, while back, he posted an editorial from the Economist about how ethanol was triggering high food costs and inciting riots in developing countries. This morning, the subject was top story in the Wall Street Journal.

I consider Mike’s articles a leading indicator of the news and public policy discussion. So, they’re good material for my blog. :) I wish I had been putting them up here all along.

The first article is an editorial from Nicholas Kristof dealing with Bush’s (un)policy in Darfur.


Shane on February 20th, 2008

My almost two year-old daughter, Dora, loves to read Sandra Boynton.
She loves the pictures. She loves to laugh at all the punchlines. Her
recent favorite is Philadelphia Chickens, which is a book/CD combo by
Ms. Boynton. Dora asks for the book by the name “Cows” which is the
title of the first song. I think I speak for my wife and I when I say
our favorite is Faraway Cookie. “I’m not tall enough to reach you
myself. So close and yet so very far….”

There is a great piece in the New York Times about Sandra Boynton today.

There is an excellent line in this interview that shows that she is as
smart as she is silly.

“To me, the commodity that we consistently overvalue is money, and
what we undervalue is our precious and irreplaceable time.”


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Shane on September 17th, 2007

Wondering which SQL Job runs which subscription? Here’s how to find out.

select,, d.path, c.description, c.laststatus, c.lastruntime
from msdb.dbo.sysjobs a
join reportserver..reportschedule b on as nvarchar(255))
join reportserver..subscriptions c on b.subscriptionid=c.subscriptionid
join reportserver..catalog d on c.report_oid=d.itemid
order by c.lastruntime desc

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Shane on July 2nd, 2007

Now that our datawarehouse database is over 250GB, using the built-in SQL Server tools are not an option. I have experience with Veritas BackupExec and NetBackup, and here is my typical experience: backups are scheduled overnight and usually take the entire night. Restores are no faster.

Here’s a product that’s worth looking in to: Idera SQLSafe. This products creates compressed backup files on the local drives. They advertise up to 95% compression and they’re not joking. We were able to achieve 80% compression and the backup took a third the time. Our 270GB datawarehouse backs up to a 55GB file in 1:20.

We have yet to perform a mission-critical restore, but if they are as fast as the backups, then we’re talking about a pretty small outage for having to restore the entire database from scratch.

And the best part is that, at < $1K per instance list price, it's much cheaper than the so-called "enterprise" solutions.

[Update]: If the price is still too steep, there is a pretty well-enabled freeware option. I need to do some checking, but based on the feature list, I wonder if we aren’t using the freeware.

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