Asking for Help

tree-climbingWhen I was a kid, I liked to climb trees. And there was a time or two when I climbed up pretty high, and then got too scared to come down. The way I came up looked more dangerous when I was trying to come down than it did going up. I panicked, said I could never come down and my sister went and got my mom, who talked me out of the tree. This blog is proof that I was wrong. With help, I came down. With clarity that often comes with youth, my sister later told me that I was being stupid. If I had just tried harder and not panicked, I could have come down by myself. While I didn’t appreciate her directness at the time, she was right. I could have helped myself, and probably should have, that time. But there are times also when I should have asked for help, but I didn’t feel comfortable asking so I wasted a lot of time trying to figure out things that a phone call would have cleared up in an instant. I like to think that I have gotten better at knowing when to ask and when to figure it out on my own. There is a wide body of knowledge available via search engines to answer a tone of questions. Also I am very fortunate to know people who, when I have asked for help literally have forgone sleep to help me out. These resources have been invaluable when I have been stuck in a virtual tree where I have a problem I don’t know how to solve.

The Lonely Leading Edge of Technology

Recently there have been a number of new releases of software. Whenever this happens, the number of answers to be found is sparse because people haven’t had a chance to accumulate a large body of knowledge. One reason the internet is such a great place to find answers is other people ask the same questions I have and have posted the questions and answers, either on forums or blog posts. I know I have written a few blog posts after finding the answers to questions I had. I am happy to share what I know, as a way of paying back for all of the help I have received. When software is released, chances are the answers are very difficult or nearly impossible to find. There are few people to ask and the internet comes back empty. This is a problem we all can fix, starting with me.

Call for Answers

Recently I have been working with some new features of SQL Server 2016 and have had questions which blogs, TechNet and Stack Overflow provided no answers on the internet. Fortunately, I have found people to help me resolve the answers. If you go searching for the same errors I had, you will find answers now, as I have posted them. If you have had a problem unique to the latest release of SQL Server, I hope you will take the time to post the question and the answer if you have it. I’m going to try to be better at answering forum questions, especially now I have learned a few interesting factoids. I am looking forward to the fact that next time when I go looking for an answer, thanks to all of us who have done the same, we can all help each other out. The next person who finds themselves in the same jam will thank you for talking them out of the tree.

Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur

DIY Guide to Content Packs

SQL Saturday Austin - 461 2016

As I was rehearsing my Using Power BI when Implementing Data Analytics Management Practices presentation for SQL Saturday Austin, I realized that I wasn’t going to have time to cover everything I wanted to cover. One of the important methods for implementing data management practices in Power BI is using content packs. Content packs are a method of sharing reports and data throughout your organization so everyone doesn’t need to create data model and those people who do can share them with everyone else. For this reason I highly recommend using content packs in Power BI. This guide will walk you through the steps needed to create content packs. If you don’t have Power BI Pro, you can stop reading now, as content packs are a feature only available in the Power BI Pro version. There are a number of steps which will need to be completed to use a content pack within Power BI, and I’ve listed them all in order below. Depending on where you are in the process you might want to skip to the Creating a Content Pack section, but I thought it was important to include everything that should be completed first.

Create a Data Model in Power BI Desktop

For this example, you will need to create a data model in Power BI Desktop, and for this demo, create one report too. I’m not going to review how to do that here, but Microsoft has a video guide to creating Power BI Desktop models here. Save the .pbix file. After saving the file, go to and login.

Recommendation: Use a Group Workspace

The next step is optional, but if you work with other people, I recommend it. If you don’t have one already, I highly recommend that you create a group workspace. That way the ownership is shared, meaning that if you take a day off, someone else has the ability to access the information. Click on the My Workspace item on the left hand side of the Power BI page. Click on the + (plus) adjacent to the Group Workspaces item. On the right hand side of the screen a form will pop up with fields for Group Name, Privacy, and Group Members. Make sure that you complete the form and save it. Double click on the new group workspace item to open it. If you happen to have an Office 365 Exchange license, creating a group workspace will also create a Group One Drive. This is a great place to put data so that you can all share it and see the file from within Power BI. Now that I have this one drive location created, I am going to copy my newly created Power BI file to it.

Using a Desktop file on Power

To use the Power Desktop file within, the next step is to upload the Power BI Desktop file to the web as a dataset. Either clicking on the + (plus) button next to the words Datasets, or click on the Get Data button on the bottom of the screen. Both options will get you to the Get Data screen. We want to Import the Power BI Desktop file, so click on the get button in the Files box. The screen will change to the file location section. Select Local file and upload the Power BI file.

Data Refresh

PersonalGatewayPowerBIConfigurationScreenEnsuring that the data set refreshed, which allows everyone to have current data, requires updating the data with a gateway. For this example I am going to use the Power BI Personal Gateway because I plan to include multiple data sources instead of just SQL Server  and Power BI web application to schedule the data refresh. Assuming I have already installed the Power BI Gateway, Click on the (ellipse) next to the Power BI Desktop file just loaded to the data set, and a box will pop up with a list of features on the bottom of the popup box. Select Schedule Refresh, which will bring up the screen shown.

Assuming the Personal Gateway is online and the Data Source Credentials are ok, change the Schedule Refresh from the default Off to On. Set the Refresh Frequency to one of the available options. If you want to update the data more than once a day, click on the option Add another time. When you have finished adding times, click on the Apply button to save the contents.

Creating a Content Pack

To create a content pack, ideally you want to share a data model which has working appropriately scheduled updates. That way anyone who wants to create a report doesn’t have to worry about having valid working data. Instead they can work on providing meaningful visualizations to business problems.

If you want to create a content pack or use one, the step is the same. Click on the yellow Get Data button on the bottom left corner of the screen. That will change the active window to the Get Data window. On the left hand side of the screen under the words Content Pack Library, there are two options. Click on the Get button from the one on the left, My Organization. Click on the button labeled Create Content Pack. The following screen will be displayed.CreateContentPacks

There are a number of options on the Create content pack screen, starting with the Choose who will have access to this content Pack button. I have selected the option My entire organization. You may want to create different content packs for different groups of users. If you have exchange groups set up, such as which would send an email to everyone listed in the email group, you can enter that email group. If you just want to add a list of emails for people within your organization, you can do that as well.

In the sample Create Content Pack screen shown, I have filled in the blanks, selected my Power BI Desktop file I just added and uploaded a company logo. Once you click on the Publish button, the screen will close and you will get a success window which briefly appears on the top of the screen. The content pack is now ready to use. Click on the Get Data button again, and the new content pack is available to use. When I select the newly created content pack AWDW, I am provided a new window with a big Connect button in it. Click on the Connect button. The data set and any reports connected to it will have yellow stars next to them.

Every one who uses this new data set can be guaranteed a data set which updated on the same schedule, and different people can now create visualizations with one shared dat aset which can be used many different times.

Data Management within an Organization

Having helped a number of organizations implement Power BI, one of the big issues I have seen are not related to the product but related to the processes within the organization which are used to support the data needs of a variety of different users. These processes tend to be the reason a self-service business intelligent process is successful or not. Using Content packs can be a part of that solution which is why I look forward to sharing what I’ve learned at SQL Saturday Austin – 461. I hope to see you Deep in the Heart of Texas!

Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur

Upcoming and Recent Events

24HOPPassSpeakingThe PASS organization is a professional organization which sponsors a number of different technical events in the technical community. Recently, I have been honored to be selected to speak at not one but two events hosted by PASS, a professional organization which provides a lot of great resources to improve knowledge of all things SQL Server and related technologies to the world. The PASS Business Intelligence Chapter provides training on all things related to Business Intelligence via the web. I was selected to talk at the last meeting in May. Thank you to all of the people who were able to attend my talk on Top 10 SSIS Tuning Tricks live. If you had to work, no problem all of the talks hosted by the PASS Business Intelligence Virtual Chapter Recordings are available on The recording of my Top 10 SSIS Tuning Tricks session is available here.

24 Hours of PASS

Periodically PASS provides a 24 Hour Training session on SQL Related topics to provide training live to every time zone in the world. As this event is watched by people around the world, it is a real honor to be selected for this event. This time the speakers were selected from people who had not yet spoken at the PASS Summit Convention, as the theme was Growing Our Community. The theme is just another way the PASS organization is working to improve people’s skills. Not only do they provide the opportunity to learn all things data, but also provide professional development through growing the speaking skills by providing many avenues to practice these skills.

Data Analytics with Azure Machine Learning

My abstract on Improving Data Analytics with Azure Machine Learning was selected by the 24 Hours of PASS. As readers of my blog are aware, I have been working on Azure Machine Learning [ML] this year and look forward to discussing how to integrate Azure ML into current environments. Data analytics with ML are yet another way to derive meaning from data being collected and stored. I find the application of data analytic fascinating, and hope to show you why if you are able to attend. There are a number of wonderful talks scheduled at this event, so I encourage you to check out the schedule at attend as many as you can. To be sure I’ll be signing up for a number of sessions as well.

Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur

Azure ML, SSIS and the Modern Data Warehouse

Recently I was afforded the opportunity to speak at several different events, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. I was able to speak on Azure Machine learning first at the Arizona SQL Server Users Group meeting. I really appreciate all who attended as we had quite a crowd. Since the meeting is held MachineLearningTalkpractically on Arizona State University’s Tempe Campus, it was great to see a number of students attending, most likely due to Ram’s continued marketing efforts on After talking to him about it, I was impressed at his success at improving attendance by promoting the event on Meetup, and wonder if many SQL Server User Groups have experienced the same benefits. If you have, please let me know. Thanks Joe for taking a picture of the event too.

Modern Data Warehousing Precon

The second event where I had the opportunity to talk about technology was at the Precon at SQL Saturday in Huntington Beach, where I spoke about Modern Data Warehousing. It was a real honor to be selected for this event, and I really enjoyed interacting with all of the attendees. Special thanks to Alan Faulkner for his assistance. We discussed the changing data environment including cloud based storage, analytics, Hadoop, handling ever increasing amounts of data from different sources, increasing demands of users, the review of technology solutions demonstrate ways to resolve these issues in their environments.

Talking and More Importantly Listening

The following day was SQL Saturday in Huntington Beach #389. Thanks to Andrew, Laurie, Thomas and the rest of the volunteers for making this a great event as I know a little bit about the work that goes into planning and pulling off the event. My sessions on Azure ML, Predicting the future with Machine Learning and Top 10 SSIS Tuning Tricks were both selected and I had great turnout on both sessions. To follow-up with a question I received during my SSIS Session, Balanced Data Distributor was first released as a new SSIS transform for SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2, so you can use it for versions prior to SQL Server 2012. I’ve posted more information about it here. I also got a chance to meet a real live data scientist, the first time that has happened.  Not only did I get a chance to speak but a chance to listen. I really enjoyed the sessions from Steve Hughes on the Building a Modern Data Warehouse and Analytics Solution in Azure, Kevin Kline on , and Julie Koesmarno on Interactive & Actionable Data Visualisation With Power View. As always it’s wonderful to get a chance to visit in person with the people who’s technical expertise I read. In addition to listening to technical jokes which people outside of the SQL community would not find humorous, it’s great to discuss technology with other practitioners. Thanks to Mr. Smith for providing me a question which I didn’t know the answer, which now I feel compelled to go find. I’ll be investigating the scalability of Azure ML and R so that I will be able to have an answer for him next time I see him. I really enjoy the challenge of not only investigating and applying new technology but figuring out how to explain what I’ve learned. I look forward to the opportunity to present again, and when I do I’ll be sure to update this site so hopefully I get a chance to meet the people who read this.
Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur



Speaking for myself, sometimes I have a hard time getting motivated. I know that I need to get a bunch of work done, and I find myself mesmerized by the internet as pet pictures or the news or twitter momentarily provide really compelling reasons not to work on the list of things that I have to get done. Eventually, I pull my head out, and start getting things accomplished. I seek out articles which have motivational tips too. One of the best tips I read went something like the inhabitants of Planet Kardashian will exist whether or not you are aware of their foibles. (They have planets now? Star Trek fortold a reality show?) What I took from the tip is; what’s going on other places will continue to go on whether you know about it or not, so you can find out about it after your work is done. Some days that works well, others, more of a goal. I write to do lists, place sticky notes around where I can’t help but see them and engage in most of the other tricks I’ve read to motivate myself. Sometimes it is not enough to push myself, I need an outside force.

External Incentive

People can provide a big external incentive. For an example of this, check out how hard sometimes people try to impress people they will never see again at stop lights. I know that I have been guilty of similar behavior, just not Green lightat stoplights. Being a part of an online community helps in finding motivation, as there are other people trying to do the same thing that you are. Motivation can come from anywhere, from a blog or even twitter. I found motivation in both places. After reading Ed Leighton-Dick’s post, I found an external motivator. His blog also showed me how powerful a post can be. Thanks to twitter, a lot of people saw his post and a number of people in the SQL Server Community have posted links and wrote their own blogs in support of his efforts. As I am sure Psy can attest, one can never know how much people are going to respond to what you put out on the internet, so kudos to Ed to being the Psy of the SQL Server Community. A number of people are now finding themselves motivated to bring their thoughts out of their head and onto the keyboard. Sharing of knowledge will help us all get smarter and better at our jobs. If you happen to be on twitter and see an interesting blog post with the hashtag #SQLNewBlogger, thank Ed as he helped make it happen.


Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur



When the Process matters nearly as much as Results

There are times when the results aren’t nearly as important as the process of doing as people learn things from figuring out what not to do. This applies if you are troubleshooting why your project isn’t working right or when your database crashes in the middle of the night. Knowing what not to waste your time with is the key to getting things back up and running. It’s the knowledge that you have gained doing the little things that add up to being the person who can fix things quickly. Often times, the little things add up to something big. It appears this has happened to me.

Finalist in Tribal Awards

I was most honored to be included in SQLServerCentral/Simple Talk Tribal Awards Finalist in the Best New Community Voice category. To be recognized among all the other people who speak and write about SQL Server is quite an honor. The only way that this could have happened is a myriad of people that I’ve met while speaking at various community events and reading this blog remembered my name when looking at a blank line on the Tribal Award. I was so surprised when I saw that my name was listed on the award I nearly fell out of my chair. To everyone who thought enough of me to enter my name in the Best New Community Voice thank you. I really appreciate it.

Nomination and Winning

Regardless of the outcome, especially given the other nominees in the category, I feel that I already won.  Being a finalist is a real honor. After all there are so many other people who are also really involved in the community. I’ve been fortunate to visit with many of you who I’ve met either online or at various events. Thank you so much for to the people who thought of me, as I really appreciate your kind thoughts.  This process mattered as much as the result, what ever it turns out to be.

Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur