“Who Am I” follow up…

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I stumbled upon The Nerd Tests (version 2) and just needed to see for myself who I was.  After taking the test, it calculated that I was a … Uber Cool Nerd. Ha! Beat that! 🙂

Nerd Test - Uber Cool Nerd

  • Science / Math: 32%
  • Technology / Computer: 82%
  • Sci-Fi / Comic: 67%
  • History / Literature: 16%
  • Dumb / Dork / Awkward: 3%

Who Am I?

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One of the Podcasts that I listen to is the Alan Watts Podcast. If you haven’t heard of Alan Watts, then you probably have never read much western philosophers of the last few decades. He has written tons of books on religion and philosophy.  Just recently, some of his talks were converted to electronic media and are being released for free via Podcasts.

In a 1965 lecture at Southern Methodist University at Dallas, Texas, he stated that most westerners think of ourselves as a “as a skin encapsulated ego”. We (westerners) don’t regard ourselves as “identical with our whole physical organization”, instead we represent ourselves as something imprisoned within our physical bodies – such as a spirit/soul separate of a body.

When most westerners are asked where are you, they may point to their brain or some region within the skull. And somehow that part controls the body but is not itself part of the body. This is quite different from eastern philosophies might state state that their entire physical body is themselves and that there is no single part of themselves that is more them than another part of their body.

Western men have long been under the influence of two great myths: image of the world as an artifact and the image of the world as a result of random collisions…

Note: Myth does not mean false or not true. Myth is defined as “a traditional story accepted as history that serves to explain the world view of a people” (WordNet).

Mr. Watts goes on to describe some eastern philosophies as thinking of nature as something that grows and not made, such as seeds turning into plants. And the concept of identifying ourselves with our entire physical being.

All of his talks have been interesting, but short.  Most of the podcasts are less than 20 minutes and some lectures, such as this one, are oftentimes split into multiple podcasts which are have been once a week postings.

Curt of Can’t See the Forest also writes about this recent lecture. He provides a little more insight into the ideas presented by Mr. Watts.


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Why are you writing that code?

Jeff Atwood of Coding Horror writes a nice article on the purpose of writing code by posing the question as an elevator test to a team of coders. An elevator test is the ability to explain something to someone during an elevator ride (typically less than a couple minutes).

If the developer can’t answer why he is writing that bit of code, then that usually means they don’t really understand what they are doing or why they are fixing something in the bigger context of the project/product.

Jeff concludes stating that “every person on your team should be able to pass the ‘elevator test’ with a stranger — to clearly explain what they’re working on, and why anyone would care, within 60 seconds.”

Software developers think their job is writing code. But it’s not.* Their job is to solve the customer’s problem. Sure, our preferred medium for solving problems is software, and that does involve writing code. But let’s keep this squarely in context: writing code is something you have to do to deliver a solution. It is not an end in and of itself.

The article is a good read and hopefully should give some developers a pause to consider what they are doing before they jump head first into writing that bit of code.

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When is a SQL Server Database not a SQL Server Database?

Answer: When it is a Microsoft CRM 3.0 database.

The Microsoft CRM is built using a SQL Server database. So that means anyone who can connect to the database can perform database operations on it. This also means that developers could build applications or user interfaces to the data without using the CRM user interface. Any user with a valid SQL Server account can connect to a SQL Server database using ADO, ADO.NET, ODBC, OLE DB, JDBC, etc.

Sometimes, you may need to write a user interface outside of the Microsoft CRM user interface. For example, if you just want to make a simple web page that allows someone to submit a few items of data (such as a “contact us” page) and then insert it into the CRM database. Otherwise, you would need to teach the user how to use the CRM user interface.  Also, maybe you’d like to display a list of items on an intranet web page that makes reporting quick, easy, and accessible. Sometimes it’s just not feasible to have every user that may supply or view data use the Microsoft CRM user interface.

Another reason (why I’m writing this) is that you may have another system that just needs a little bit of data from the CRM’s database. The other system may have very little to do with the CRM, but just needs a few values from the database. The other system may even have its own database that might just need to refresh the shared values at a specific interval, so there’s no direct querying of the CRM database.

The easiest option would be to link the SQL Servers (the CRM and other database). Another option would be to use a third-party to map the fields and migrate the data at a standard interval (such as nightly). Lastly, you could just write batch files to perform SELECT, INSERT, UPDATE, etc. statements to keep the two systems in sync.

Well if you’re thinking about any of those options then that’s when the “Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0: External Connector” is needed. Basically, it is an approval letter saying that it is okay for you to connect to the CRM database.  The CRM license costs about $2,000 USD per server and each user license costs about $1,000 USD each.  The External Connector license costs about $15,000 USD regardless if you are building a complete user interface to replace the CRM or if you are just copying some values from one database to another database.

So of course, there’s a lot of confusion over the license. Does this mean that if I send an email to someone that’s not a CRM user, then I require a an external license since the end-user is does not have a valid CRM CAL? What if someone copies data from CRM database into an Excel spreadsheet and then emails it? What if a CRM GUID (PK) value is stored in another database that is used to build a hyperlink to the CRM user interface that only valid CRM CAL users can access? What if the values are entered manually into another database by a user that has a valid CRM CAL. would other users be able to view that value even though it is not directly connected to the CRM database?


The Rise and Fall of Database Administrators

Diego Parrilla posted a great story/rant on the changing role of DBAs in an increasingly ORM development environment titled “Rise and fall of DBAs: The tyranny of the ORM“.

There was a time when DBAs dictate how developers should use Their databases. It was early and mid-nineties and Their Word was The Truth…

And then a new trend started: move out of the database as much business logic as possible. The web developers started to code the SQL inside the application to relief the database.

IT Manager: And we can also transfer all these development tasks to the development team. Right?
DBAs: Correct, but…


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