Friday, May 6, 2011

Orlando 101 For SQLRally Attendees: Weather

The inaugural SQLRally in Orlando is less than a week away (May 11-13)! Maybe you're coming to Orlando for the first time, or maybe you've been here before but just aren't familiar with the area. I live a few miles away from the Marriott so I thought I'd share some "insider" tips. After posting my tips for travel & hotel, food, shopping, and entertainment yesterday it hit me that I forgot to mention one of the best things about coming to Florida this time of year - the weather!

Sunshine…And Rain
Mid-May temperatures in Orlando peak in the low-90's (F) in the afternoons and drop into the low 70's (F) at night. What gets most people when they come here, though, is the humidity. It's not uncommon for the humidity to reach 60-75% on an average day, and when it rains it'll get close to 100%.

Speaking of rain, occasionally there are isolated showers in the afternoon that last 20-30 minutes - long enough to get the ground wet - but an hour later you'd never know it even rained because the heat evaporates all the water again. The biggest problem it causes is on the roads because for some reason people forget how to drive when it starts to rain.

If you have allergies bring your medication of choice - pollen levels in the area are very high this time of year.

Mosquitos
The Everglades (massive wetlands that cover 1\3 of Florida) start in Orlando and that means there are a lot of places with standing water. Standing water is breeding grounds for mosquitos and they come out en masse when the sun goes down! You may want to pick up some bug spray for the outdoors after hours events we have planned on Wednesday and Thursday.

Forecast
Here's the forecast for May 11-13, courtesy of weather.com:

Forecast - 2011.05.11

Forecast - 2011.05.12

Forecast - 2011.05.13

Don't forget your bathing suits, sandals, and sunscreen…and see you next week at SQLRally!

 

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Orlando 101 For SQLRally Attendees: Entertainment

The inaugural SQLRally in Orlando is less than a week away (May 11-13)! Maybe you're coming to Orlando for the first time, or maybe you've been here before but just aren't familiar with the area. I live a few miles away from the Marriott so I thought I'd share some "insider" tips. In this final post I'll talk about entertainment options. Most of this list will be things you'd consider doing if you're staying a few extra days, but some things you can squeeze in 

The Obvious Stuff
The first thing that most people think of when they think about Orlando are the theme parks, so I'll get the obvious ones out of the way:

Now with that out of the way, here's a few things most people don't think about when they visit Orlando:

Disney Related Activities
In addition to the theme parks there are a ton of other things to see and do around the Disney area. Here's a few:

  • Downtown Disney - They've got an official LEGO store, Cirque du Soleil La Nouba, and Disney Quest (5 floors of all you can play video games). They've also got a balloon ride that takes you 400 feet in the air for a nice view of Orlando. Parking is free.
  • Disney's Boardwalk - Ask for a free 3 hour parking pass at the parking lot security gate and go check out the ESPN Club and Jellyrolls (dueling pianos).
  • Magic Kingdom Fireworks - Park at the Grand Floridian and walk over to Narcoossee's. You have a clear view of the Wishes fireworks show from across the Seven Seas Lagoon and they pipe in the music so you get the full experience of the show without having to be in the park. Fireworks are at 9 PM on the 10th, 11th, and 13th, and at 10 PM on the 12th. (Tip: Bring Bug Spray!)

Alligators!
Florida is famous for alligators. Visiting here without seeing at least one would be like going to the mountains in the winter and not seeing snow. Here's two places for seeing live gators:

  • Gatorland - Watch feedings and someone step into the ring to wrestle with a live gator. You'll see more alligators in one spot here than anywhere else.
  • Everglades Airboat Tours - If seeing gators in captivity's not your thing how about hopping on an airboat and seeing them in the wild?

Be A Kid Again
There are plenty of places where you can let your inner child out. Here's a few

  • Old Town - Come join fellow SQLRally Attendees Thursday night from 7-10 PM. Old Town is best described as a permanent county fair. They've got shops, bars, a mechanical bull, and a really cool slingshot ride that sends you a few hundred feet skyward in under 5 seconds (Check out a video of it here, wear headphones - NSFW language). Next door is Fun Spot USA with 3 Go Kart tracks and some killer thrill rides like a giant swing that drops you from 300 feet high.
  • Helicopter Tours - Check out Orlando from a helicopter! There's quite a few of these places around town. The closest to the Marriott are Sunshine Helicopter Tours on Highway 192 (407-390-0175) and International Heli-Tours on International Drive South (407-239-8687)

Museums
These aren't your fine art kind of places…

  • Ripley's Believe It Or Not - You'll find some strange, oddball kinds of things here.
  • Titanic, The Experience - Full scale recreations of famous parts of the ship, original artifacts recovered from the wreck, live actors dressed in period clothing, and more bring the story of the Titanic to life.

The Coolest Pad On The Planet
A 45 minute drive from Orlando - but well worth it if you're into space - is the Kennedy Space Center Visitor's Complex. They've got a rocket "garden" full of flight hardware, IMAX movies, a space shuttle simulator, one of the few remaining complete Saturn V rockets in the world, and tours of Kennedy Space Center.

At the time I write this it's possible that Space Shuttle Endeavour may launch while SQLRally is taking place, so keep an ear to the ground because on launch days the visitor's complex is closed. Of course, seeing a launch in person is pretty cool, too. (The best place to keep up with shuttle launch news is SpaceFlightNow)

Get Your Geek On
Orlando is also home to Skycraft Parts & Surplus, a treasure trove of miscellaneous electronics and mechanical parts that you'll love if you're the maker\tinkerer type.

Liquid Bread
Like beer? Check out Orlando Brewing, Florida's only certified organic brewery. Tours offered daily at 6 PM, and after the tour enjoy a drink fresh from the tap.

Conclusion
These are just a handful of the things you can do in Orlando, and hopefully you'll take some time to try and do at least one non-SQL related thing for fun. If there's something else you're interested in or have heard about that's not on this list feel free to catch me in person and ask me about it. If I don't know I'm sure someone else local does!

See you next week at SQLRally!

 

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Orlando 101 For SQLRally Attendees: Shopping

The inaugural SQLRally in Orlando is less than a week away (May 11-13)! Maybe you're coming to Orlando for the first time, or maybe you've been here before but just aren't familiar with the area. I live a few miles away from the Marriott so I thought I'd share some "insider" tips. In this post I'll talk about places to shop.

Because Orlando is such a tourist destination there are no shortage of places to go shopping. Here's the major malls and outlets near the Marriott:

Also, if you need some quick supplies, there's a Walmart Supercenter located 2 miles down the road from the Marriott and a Target just a bit further at 3.2 miles away.

In my next and final post I'll cover entertainment options.

 

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Orlando 101 For SQLRally Attendees: Where To Eat

The inaugural SQLRally in Orlando is less than a week away (May 11-13)! Maybe you're coming to Orlando for the first time, or maybe you've been here before but just aren't familiar with the area. I live a few miles away from the Marriott so I thought I'd share some "insider" tips. In this post I'll talk about places to eat.

Celebration, FL
I mentioned in my last post that the Lake Buena Vista\Westgate area of town is very touristy, and that also means there are a lot of chain restaurants and cheap buffets. If you're looking for something off the beaten path and less chain-restaurant check out these places in "downtown" Celebration, about 2.5 miles away from the Marriott:

For drinks after the after-hours activities are over I highly recommend the Celebration Town Tavern, Shannon's, or Mulligan's Pub (all three in Celebration). Town Tavern has live entertainment every night, and if you're still in the area on Friday night they've got karaoke starting at 10 PM.

Outside of Celebration there's a few other places that I like that are close to SQLRally:

In my next post I'll cover where you can go shopping in Orlando.

 

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Orlando 101 For SQLRally Attendees: Accommodations & Travel

The inaugural SQLRally in Orlando is less than a week away (May 11-13)! Maybe you're coming to Orlando for the first time, or maybe you've been here before but just aren't familiar with the area. I live a few miles away from the Marriott so I thought I'd share some "insider" tips.

In this post I'll talk about hotels (I hear some people may still one) and travel. But first…

The Lay Of The Land
The area of town where SQLRally is being held has two common names: Lake Buena Vista and Westgate. It's a very touristy section of town - lots of hotels, lots of restaurants, plenty of places to shop, and lots of people here on vacation. The single best piece of advice I can offer here is bring a big bag of patience. It takes twice as long to do whatever it is you're doing than you think it's going to take.

Hotels
If you're travelling alone and looking for the least expensive option possible, consider finding a roommate to split the cost of a rental car and hotel room with. (Use the #SQLRally hashtag on Twitter to help with this)

Two miles away from the Marriott is the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Lake Buena Vista. I haven't stayed there personally but everything I've seen and read suggests it's a decent place for under $100 per night. They offer free shuttle service to most area parks and attractions and it's walking distance from shopping and dining.

If you're bringing family & kids two places come to mind:

  • The Nikelodeon Hotel is right across the street from the Marriott and they've got plenty of things to keep children occupied. It'll cost you about the same as the Marriott but your kids will probably enjoy staying at the Nickelodeon more. They offer shuttle service to area attractions at a marginal cost.
  • Just a few miles away are all the Disney resorts if you're bringing younger kids and the Nickelodeon isn't your cup of tea. Disney is the only hotel\resort which offers *free* shuttle service to\from the airport, and once you're on Disney property there's free public transportation to all of their offerings. The only catch is that you'd need a way to get to the Marriott but at that point cab fare is pretty cheap or you could catch a ride with another attendee who has a car.

Travel
The Orlando area is very spread out and I highly recommend renting a car to get around once you're here. Every rental company has a presence at the airport, most are fairly cheap for an in-town rental.

As I mentioned there are a lot of people visiting the Lake Buena Vista\Westgate area; Orlando ranks consistently in the top 20 most traffic congested US cities! Interstate 4 is the main road that cuts through the heart of Orlando and at times it can be bumper-to-bumper stop and go. Mornings around 10-11 AM are particularly bad, as are evenings from 5-6 PM.

The Marriott is located on Highway 536 (World Center Drive) and if you're coming to the after hours events your GPS may route you along Highway 535 (Vineland Rd). The intersection of these roads, and especially the stretch on 535 to I-4, are insanely busy around 5-7 PM. You may be better off taking 536 to I-4 (it's like picking the lesser of two evils), then get off I-4 at 535 (exit 68). Check the traffic beforehand and make a judgment call - but either way be prepared for traffic!

If you don't want to rent a car there are plenty of shuttle\taxi services that can get you from\to the airport and the Marriott for $50 or less, then once you're at the Marriott you can catch rides with other attendees who have cars. Here are two services based in the area which have been recommended to me:

  • Greater Orlando Shuttle: (321) 939-2200
  • Celebration Transportation Services: (407) 383-7741

We've also listed some other hotel and travel options on the SQLRally website that you may want to check out.

Next Up…
In my next post I'll cover places in the area to eat.

 

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Monday, May 2, 2011

Meme Monday: 99 Problems

Tom LaRock's (Blog | @SQLRockstar) latest Meme Monday challenge asks: "how many things can go wrong with a database server that are NOT related to a disk drive?" and invites SQL bloggers to list 9 problems in an attempt to come up with 99 total. Here are some things I've seen over the years at different places I've been:

  1. Access rights - too much, too few, & everywhere in between
  2. Not understanding that replication turns one update statement affecting 500K rows into 500K update statements that affect one row each
  3. Not understanding why 500K update statements affecting one row each don't replicate immediately
  4. WITH (NOLOCK)
  5. Ambiguous schema design
  6. Not paying attention to alerts (if they're even set up to begin with)
  7. Default database growth settings
  8. Not setting max server memory (especially on x64 instances)
  9. Dynamic SQL

Why stop at 9? Here's a few more fun ones…

  1. ORM tools…they're getting better, but jeez some of the first iterations of these generated some nasty, horrible SQL (see #9)
  2. Not taking backups
  3. Not testing restores when you actually do take backups
  4. Index hints on every table referenced in a select statement (do you really think you're that much better than the query optimizer?)
  5. SELECT * FROM…
  6. Error messages displayed on public facing web applications which include the connection string (bonus: showing the username and password for the SQL login in plain text)
  7. Public facing web based "tools" which let you enter T-SQL in a text box and execute it against any one of the servers shown in a dropdown list…(yes, unfortunately I really did see this once)
  8. Public facing access to SQL Server instances
  9. SQL injection

Tag, you're it! What kinds of bad stuff have you seen before?