All posts by Scott

My Dell Precision 5510 is getting old

I have had a few issues over the years with my Dell Precision 5510 notebook (

I bought the device specifically to do demos which required a VMs without access to the internet.  The machine has 32 GB of RAM, a 2 TB Samsung 970 NVMe, Amazing touch-screen display.  I had an issue last year and found that the motherboard was a problem.  It would not post – no a peep.  Dell allowed me to pay to have my warranty extended DESPITE the fact that it lapsed!  This saved me a lot of time and money.  Extended Motherboard replaced… moving right along… Until a few months ago…

I had been having some failed recoveries from Hibernation – the way that I keep my 63 browser tabs available to resume where I left off when I return to work… Yeah, I use History and the OneTab browser extension as well, but… I digress… Things hadn’t been going well for a little while, perhaps my last motherboard firmware update – I know, “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke” but, sometimes there is that “Gosh, THAT’s what’s been causing me that pain for SO long?” – So I generally update the firmware shortly after it has come out.  Recovery from Hibernation also started causing issues when waking from hibernation while docked.  My external monitors would sometimes not come on… Sure, I LOVE the WINDOWS + CTRL + SHIFT + B to give the Windows video subsystem a kick in the pants, but I ended up removing the USB C cable attached to my Dell WD 15 dock, unplug the power from the dock, wait, plug the power back in, wait, plug the dock into the PC, and wait… sometime that was enough, sometime opening and closing the lid on my laptop did the trick… I was sad because this just worked before, and then stopped working… 

So then a few weeks back…  WTF?!  My Delete key popped off and wouldn’t stay in place.  I lived with it… then one day… My machine would not POST… No Dell logo, not beep… no luck.  I know, people are quick to throw out ideas, and I know where I could start… But I had also recently receive paper mail (shocking isn’t it) from Dell, reminding me that my warranty was coming due soon.  So, this was my wake up call, I should get these issues fixed soon… and I should get Dell support involved early, if, for no other reason to get my Keyboard replaced.  So, I was on the right track:

  1. get out the anti-static mat & wrist strap (let’s keep it safe people)
  2. unplug power adapter
  3. unscrew bottom
  4. disconnect battery
  5. unplug SSD, RAM, WiFi Adapter
  6. replace bottom with just the 2 big screws
  7. turn over
  8. hold down power to discharge
  9. plug in (remember there is not battery)
  10. Hopefully it will reset the stuff and give you a not boot device error, if not Rinse and repeat by plugging the RAM back in.

This did the trick for me and I found out 2 days prior dell released a critical firmware update for my system, It was advised that I install it immediately – Yeah, thanks guys! 

now on Friday, UniSys comes to install my new keyboard.  When looking at the heat sink and motherboard, the tech noticed that 3 of the 4 thermal pads were not in place.  They must have been missed when the motherboard was switched out 10 months ago!  NICE.  Upon Rebooting, another frustration… Self test showed errors on the my SSD – non stock, not supported by Dell, Nice… So after that was dealt with (thermal pads on order, also new motherboard later approved too) I needed to deal with the SSD.

The error message detail I found were posted here: 

Recommended action

Replace Hard Drive.

The diagnostics indicate that you may be experiencing an issue with the Hard drive.

          • Please update BIOS.
          • Turn of the computer and Reseat the drives/cables/connections for the hard drive. Refer to the service manual for instructions.
          • Restart your computer and rerun the PSA diagnostics.

If you are unable to resolve the issue, please contact Dell Technical Support for additional assistance.

So what do YOU use to test the SMART system of your SSD?  I have a Samsung so it comes with Magician software for that… it said everything was fine.  I installed CrystalDiskInfo ( – It said everything was fine?! – WHAT?!  Okay, I have lots in the cloud, but it would be a pain if I didn’t have a bare metal restore available, so after considering Image backup with the Old Windows 7 app, i changed gears and decided that my Synology Active Backup for Business (…/active_backup_business) which came free with my Synology DS918+ NAS (…/DS918+) was likely a better solution, so I configured that.

Now my Firmware and drivers were updated, my machine seeming fine, I re-ran the ePSA this is the “Dell Enhanced Pre-Boot System Diagnostics (ePSA) – diagnostics that are built into the hardware of your system” …

I ran the quick test – no issues… none…

I ran the detailed test – not issues… Hmmm… I turn off ALL other tests but the Storage tests to be sure… PASS – No issues…

Well, where do I go from here…

Do you know of any other SSD test I might want to try…

For RAM I’ve used the open source project MemTest86 ( for YEARS and have found bad memory modules on servers and PCs…

Is there an INTENSIVE / Comprehensive testing tool for SSDs?



To the #SQLPASS #FirstTimers of #Summit 2012 – The Procrastination Edition

Okay, it is the “11th Hour” – It’s Friday, you have things to do before you leave for the day, and they you rush home to pack you bags for the SQL PASS Summit.  WHERE TO START?

It will be okay…

Keep calm and carry on

(incidentally, many interesting variations of the original when you look at Google images.)

There are resources out there to help you as you prepare for your first time at the Summit.

There is so much great content out there, and I’m not one  to re-create the wheel, but simply re-present it.  Even if you are have been to multiple PASS Summits in the past, I’m confident you’ll find a few gems in the links below.

If you are an Official First timer, or would like to be, it would be great to attend one of 5 “Professional Development and Networking Workshop Sessions” (for more details) offered on-site on Tuesday by Networking Professional, Don Gabor.  Click on the “Let Us Know” link located here to register.

I know there are numerous, don’t feel that you have to read them all, but speed through, make some notes, and come say, “Hi!” to me at the Summit.

Blog Posts for #FirstTimers to #SQLPASS #Summit2012

 Jen Stirrup’s

 Tara Clark’s

 Denny Cherry

 Jason Strate’s

 Pat Wright’s

 Kendra Little’s

 Julie Koesmarno’s

 Jes Schultz Borland’s

Davide Mauri

Oldies but goodies!  (The blogs… not the blogers…)

 Thomas LaRock’s

 Sarah Strate (Olander?)

Tim Radney’s

 Jen McCown’s

 Jason Strate’s

Official @SQLPASS Links

SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) Resources

Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) has been around for over 8 years.  It was introduced in 2004 as an add-on for SQL Server 2000 because it was feature complete, but the SQL Server team was having issues launching the rest of “Yukon”.  Incidentally, Yukon was the codename for what would become SQL Server 2005.  As soon as the webcast for the initial release of SSRS finished, I started downloading the bits and planning our development environment for its inclusion.

I must admit, I personally didn’t do much at all with SSRS until well after 2005 was available.  I was first tasked to create a scaled out environment with two native mode SSRS portals.  Shortly after I was tasked with taking some user requirements, some design elements and building a bunch of reports.  This was actually a lot of fun.  They wanted me to do some investigation of Best Practices and document the ones we used for the reports.  It was an opportunity that you rarely get – to actually plan before delivering reports!  I was working with someone who’d spend quite a bit of time with SSRS, Chris McGuigan (a.k.a. mister.magoo on SSC).  Unfortunately, Chris was being pulled away from his passion of SSRS, and into Middle Management.  So Scott got to play in the sand box.  I also have the pleasure of working with Report Builder 1.0 report models and building a few solutions that were really eye popping for the users. But, I digress…

Back to my purpose…

I am starting to do some more work with SSRS in 2008 R2 and 2012, and I want to revisit some of the sites that I’ve perused in the past, and I am welcoming new suggestions too.  So anything focused on Lessons Learned, Best Practices, Design Ideas… Screencast are great, but equally good are articles and blogs.  I’d like to construct a drop zone for others to leverage what we’ve found.


CALL TO ACTION:  If you have some favourite SSRS Resources, please add a comment below and help an old guy out, and the rest of the community too!



Here is one of my all time favourites!

  1. SSW Logo SSW Rules to Better SQL Reporting Services
  2. Koen Verbeeck (@Ko_Ver) recommends his colleague Valentino Vranken’s (@ValentinoV42) blog articles on SSRS
  3. MSDN: Report Design Tips (Report Builder and SSRS)


The Right Time and Place (and Technology?)

I am sitting in the waiting room at the doctors office with iPhone in hand… And I am blogging. Not the best tool for the job, but it works in a pinch. The WordPress iPhone app is actually just the right balance of utility and frugality – the power that you don’t need doesn’t get in your way, but you are delighted to find it when the need surfaces. Now that I’m an old man (40) it’s time to get poked and prodded. Time to keep up on the maintenance.

So much to do, so little time.

Summer is here and there is so much happening in my area of technical speciality.

Microsoft SQL Server

SQL Server 2012 was recently released. This is a significant release for SQL Server in many respects.  In the BI front out ETL tool finally had Undo.  I know… crazy that this is something that one gets excited about, and only after 7 years.  In the space of Reporting we have improved spatial capabilities and improved rendering with SharePoint Integrated Mode.  Additionally, there is Power View which is and highly interactive visual exploration tool, which when release only supported when hosted in a SharePoint Environment with the Enterprise Licensing price tag.  Analysis Services Supports a database engine and storage type referred to as a Analysis Services Tabular  (tradition OLAP engine was rebranded as Analysis Services Multidimensional).  Tabular uses the underlying technology introduced as an Add in to Excel called PowerPivot, introduced with SQL Server 2008 R2.  This technology was called the VertiPaq Engine, but with the launch of SQL Server 2012 it too was re-branded as xVelocity.  I could go on and delve into gruesome detail of the new features, but suffice to  say, there are an inordinate number or new and enhanced features in the product for everyone.

Microsoft Office 2013 Pre Release – In particular Excel

Excel for me is the product that provides the most alluring capabilities as a database professional.  More and more Business Intelligence features are being injected into the product.  Features that allow the business user to explore data in much more engaging ways than ever before.  The ability to create Power View visualizations (see above; this feature was only ever offered with SharePoint – No longer it seems) and additionally, add mapping integration with Bing Maps.  Other interesting additions are the new data import methods offered such as XML.

SharePoint 2013

I really don’t know all of the features, but really haven’t had time to delve in… dare I opt to distort the space time continuum?   Perhaps, not…

Windows 8 & Windows Server 2012

There is a plethora of feature in the new OS to be delivered in the Fall.  Touch is of personal interest – play with an iPad for any length of time and you will find yourself touching your laptop screen expecting it to respond to your gestures.  The new user interface referred to as the Metro UI encompasses design principle that make the user experience much more intuitive to touch, or so the design folks at Microsoft hope.

From a database professional who likes to isolate pre-release products in there own little virtual world, HyperV integration into the desktop version of the product (Windows 8) was a very welcomed addition.  No longer will I install a server operating system on my laptop to host a virtual environment – thanks for listening Microsoft!

With all these new product features and enhancements, when do I have time to cover it all?  Well maybe I should chill and enjoy some of the Summer and attend the PASS Summit in November and be chaperoned through minutia of product capabilities.

Where are you going to be November 6-9th?  Why not join me for the largest gathering of the SQL Server Community?  The PASS Summit 2012 ( – Ah, yet another topic for a blog entry, and alas, So much to do, so little time.


“Done is Better Than Perfect”

I saw this quote in someone’s Facebook post the other day, and although I cringe at the reality of the statement, in general I must agree – Done is better than perfect.

With this current task of creating a new personal brand for myself, “done” is the goal of this first blog post.  Sure, I need to get my EasyDNS configuration to point to this Windows Azure Web Site.  Sure, I have to figure out this whole new world of WordPress, and the underlying technologies of MySQL & PHP and how it operates on this slightly, non-traditional Windows Azure Web Site infrastructure.  And that’s only the technology aspects of this endeavour…  I also need to think about my message, my voice; I have to choose a colour scheme that reflect my feeling and personality…

Okay, while “Done” is close at hand, please don’t confuse this with “Good”.  Good as it loosely relates to the Voltarian quote “Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.” or loosely translated to “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”  But perhaps, I’ve lost my perspective… My goal was to post my first blog on this new site, and perhaps this is just good enough.

I look forward to sharing a better branded experience shortly on but today, you were brought here to a generic WordPress site.  Expect some SQL Server BI video blogs here in the future, and perhaps some articles on alternative fuel technology and natural resource management on the personal scale.

And with that, my work here (for now) is done