First up, Ars Technica announced (along with many others, I’m sure) that Microsoft is releasing PowerShell to the Linux and Mac OS-X operating systems. It’s an interesting development, especially when you think about running SQL Server on Linux at some point in the future. I wonder if this heralds a future release of SQL Server for MacOS? Since it’s available for some flavors of Linux, and MacOS is based on Unix, it seems to me a natural fit.
Next, edX. LOTS of people know of edX and many have taken courses on it. A somewhat smaller number have actually completed courses on it, but that’s another story. This morning I completed Querying With Transact-SQL, DAT201x. It’s an eleven-part course with videos, lab problems, quizzes, and a final exam. I wasn’t able to work on it the first two or three weeks after it launched, so I crammed the entire course in to about two weeks. And I learned a bunch of new things, very interesting stuff. I’ve been working with SQL Server for 25 years, since the initial 4.21a release on Lan Manager. But we tend to specialize and don’t really use all of the language. If this describes you, then you might benefit from this course. It uses syntax that I knew of but that I had never used as it was not needed at the places that I had worked. And through learning about those and doing the lab exercises, I picked up a lot of information.
The final exam was 21 questions. Your 11 quizzes make up 50% of the grade, the final the remainder. You don’t need to do the labs, but if you’re wanting to learn new things, then why not do them?! You don’t need SQL Server installed on your system as they use AdventureWorksLT(v12) on Azure (a VERY small version of the full-blown AW database), which you can link up to SSMS on any Windows PC. Obviously you will need an Azure account, and while there are free accounts available, you’ll still need to provide a credit card to register for your free account. There are almost 90(?!) free courses offered by Microsoft available right now, you’ll probably find something to your taste.
I have a couple of complaints about DAT201X, and they’re probably true of any course like these. First, I blew a question on the final because it required two responses and I only clicked one (the quizzes and final were all multiple-guess or select something to fill in the blank). If the software requires X > 1 responses, it shouldn’t let you click the Check button unless that many options are selected. Next, some of the problems were, in my humble opinion, nonsensical. In several cases you were processing information that should have been handled by a reporting system. And a complaint about Azure that caused me some major headaches and was responsible for delaying me working on the class: I followed the steps and I could not connect to my server. Eventually I decided to strip everything out and start again from scratch, and I stumbled upon a log that showed one step failed. Of course it’s a step that wasn’t obvious: had the obvious steps failed, I would have easily seen the problem. Azure provided no alert or email to tell me that the step failed. Fortunately the second time that I created everything went just fine.
I expect my next edX courses will be Implementing ETL with SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) (DAT217x) and Delivering a Relational Data Warehouse (DAT216x), but not at the same time. My SSIS skills vary between pathetic and non-existent, so I really need to learn that system. I was pretty good at ETL with DTS, but that system no longer exists and you have to do it all in SSIS. And while I have little interest in data warehousing, it is a skill in demand and it can’t hurt to learn it. There are some Sharepoint classes that might be useful, and I’m hoping that some Reporting Services classes will be appearing soon.
The courses are free, you can buy a certificate upon successful completion for $49. And you don’t have to commit to the certificate until after you finish the final, as long as you do it before the class end date, so if something happens to your real-life availability, you haven’t committed to the $50.