11 May

Certification: The Best And The Worst

I’ve done a lot of certification / tests over the years.  I think I’ve taken 20 technical certification tests and if you count non-technical stuff there would be even more.  I thought, just for the heck of it, I’d see if I could produce an article on the highs and lows of tests that I’ve done.  So, here goes.

It Came From Hell, But It Was Fair

Easily the hardest I’ve ever attempted was the Oracle SQL Expert.  The reason for that is three-fold.  First, you are working on the Oracle platform.  So, if you haven’t done it, which I had not, you wind up missing questions about how to look up the structure of a table, permissions, etc.  It’s like starting at a 85 instead of 100.

Second, they ask hard questions with a wonderful set of words, “Choose all that apply”.  Those 4 words turn a single question into four, five and sometimes more.  And, it’s very syntactically nasty.  You have to be ready for them to do anything that is possible.  Some things, in fact, can only be done in Oracle.  I beat the test by memorizing the Study Guide, literally, all 700 pages, and it took me more than one try.

Finally, there is a tendency to think you know SQL because you’ve been working on it for a long time.  This test will murder you that way because they are also testing Oracle SQL.

It Came From Hell, To Trick You

The SAS Base exam is simply one long exercise in “seriously, no, really?”  Petty, picky and designed to trick you.  I didn’t see one but it wouldn’t surprise me if they asked a question where you compared MONTHLY and M0NTHLY, then focused the question elsewhere so you didn’t see it.  It’s a really petty design.

Easiest Questions Evah

I can’t show the question, due to the NDA, but there are literally questions on the MySQL exams that require no technical knowledge to answer correctly, and really not much knowledge of anything.  I actually wound up staring at a question for a minute or two trying to figure out if they were really asking what they were asking.  While there were also spelling errors, and the test was far from hard, I’m still amazed at one of the questions that came up on it.


Those of you who have done old school Microsoft exams have had the experience of looking at a question, then the answers, and seeing more than one correct answer.  Of course you are supposed to pick the best answer, yet, both could work and probably would work pretty well.  What don’t you know?  You missed the official, approved, okey dokey answer from Microsoft that specified Whizzer Z as the fastest approach, according to them.  I used to hate these questions.

Most Disappointing Prep Material

First, there is a ton of bad training material out there.  Usually it’s some off-brand crap put out by some place you’ve never heard of. But, sometimes, the name brand stuff is bad too.  The recent spate of Microsoft Training Kits have been very disappointing.  The 70-461 book had chapters out-of-order which is pretty amazing actually.  I’ve never had that happen.  But, the author of that book is so good he carries us through it.

The 70-463 book, however, is an exercise in frustration.  On the one hand, it’s pretty good and covers a ton of ground.  On the other hand, it almost caused me to give up the testing process because the sample exercises just failed over, and over, and over.

You can read my review here.

Best Prep Material

The MySQL 5.0 Certification Study Guide.  It’s just solid, direct, and it gets to the point.  It probably helps that the tests aren’t that hard and really broken up.  When I took it there were four exams and really there should only have been two.  I assume this is how they, needlessly, raised the price.

You can read my review here.

I Learned The Most From

The MCSA 2012.  I didn’t necessarily learn a ton from it, in the sense of new things, but it really helped to clarify the Microsoft side of the house for me.  I had several interviews which were directly from that side of the house but didn’t recognize it until too late.  Studying for this really brought home some of those differences.

I also found the data warehouse part valuable.  I don’t necessarily agree with the absolutist approach to data warehousing that you often see on the Microsoft side of the house but digging through the process helped cement a lot of things I’d been doing.

Trying Too Hard To Make Yourself Look Smart

Additive and non-additive measures.  This is a data warehousing concept that is often mentioned as if it’s a meaningful concept.  Really?  Because anyone who has ever had to calculate gross profit would understand it.  They just won’t know that you guys decided to call it a non-additive measure.

It Meant Absolutely Nothing

Many years ago I contracted with a company that was using NetWare 5.  I decided it would be nice to know a bit more about it so I picked up the certification.  I left the company a couple of months later and never touched Netware again.

But, ironically, it wasn’t the worst performer.  I was, at one point, a MCT (Microsoft Certified Trainer).  I got it right when the market dropped out in 2000ish, and to be honest, I couldn’t rationalize training people.  I did it because a friend was making a fortune training but I sat there, looked at what I knew, and more importantly everything I didn’t know, and just couldn’t get behind it.  Say goodbye to $750.

Doubly so because Microsoft decided to expire the certification every so often.  So, despite spending the money, I can’t even claim to be a MCT today.  I’m probably not even supposed to say I’m a former MCT.

I’m So Smart

To everyone who posts their score online.

One of my favorite things is when guys list their scores on certification tests.  “See, how smart I am!!!!”  Look, here’s a blunt truth about certification.  If someone fails, you almost never hear about it.  No one wants to admit it, even I dodge the failures, and I’ve failed tests.

The other thing that happens is some guy who has been say an Oracle Developer for 10 years rolls in, takes the SQL Expert Exam, the brags about how he scored a 980.  OK, but, you should score high.  It’s all you’ve done for a decade.  If you didn’t pass it, and you studied, besides not admitting it, you probably should find a new line of work.

Look, people fail these things all the time.  I have no idea what the numbers are, maybe it’s half, maybe it’s two-thirds, maybe it’s less, but people fail.  If you take enough tests, and you are stretching outside of your comfort zone, you’ll roll in, and do what I’ve done, more than once in fact, see a passing score of X and realize you just failed by one question.  It’s going to happen and believe me, it sucks.  On the other hand, do enough, and you’ll see a passing score of X, score X, and walk away certified.

The One I Most Needed But Didn’t Have

Many years ago I used to bike a local trail.  It was a good post work ride in the Summer and depending on what route I took, it would last an hour or two.  One day I’m out biking and I see a pile of something on the trail.  I figured something had broken loose and blown onto the trail.  When I get to the material I discover something I never expected: an old man passed out.

I stop, look at the man, and desperately try to remember my first aid / CPR.  He was clearly in bad shape and wasn’t breathing.  Just as I’m getting ready to give it a try (he had no chance if I did nothing) I see two women come over the hill.  I yell, “do you know CPR?”  And what do they turn out to be?  Two nurses.

They stay and do CPR, I bike until I find a house, bang on the door, and have the guy call 911.  This was before cell phones.  Yeah, that’s right, none of us had a cell phone.

I ride back and the two nurses, who had been walking their dogs, had me take care of them while they performed CPR.  The dogs are another bizarre part of the story.  They were both Marmaduke type dogs.  Really big and really scared by everything going on, me included.  But, thankfully, they didn’t have a mean bone in them so I was able to keep them under control.

It took the paramedics a bit to get to us, it was probably a quarter-mile from the house, but get there they did.

I found out later that we, a term loosely applied here, saved the guy’s life and that he had a heart attack.  I don’t know, to be honest, who was luckier, him, or me.  I took a CPR/First aid course a few weeks after that and discovered that I was woefully unprepared and what little I knew, and it was very little, was outdated.  They had changed almost the entire CPR process.  I’m sure that me trying something, would have been better than nothing, but not much better.

Even worse is that back then the world was more isolated than it is today.  It’s very possible that even had I known what I was doing, it could have been a half hour between me starting CPR and the paramedics arriving.  I doubt very much that he would have made it that long.  In fact, another lucky thing for this guy is that he probably went down seconds before I came around the corner.  It was just incredibly lucky all the way around.  Heck, what if no one was home at the house I went too?

And, you know what I just remembered?  My CPR / First Aid is out of date.  I’m going to need to find a class and redo it.  I guess something good can come out of this blog after all.

08 Apr

SAS Advanced

I guess I’m going to do this next.  But, it probably won’t be a rush job and I may not even finish it.  I’m 1-1/2 chapters in and I’ve already found 3 things that irritated me where SAS went off the reservation, so to speak.  And because they’ve done that it probably means another test where they hit minutiae, I pass the test, and leave the testing center mad.

So, here is the plan.  Unlike the SAS Base certification, this will go slower, at most a couple of chapters a day.  It might go even slower once I get out of the SQL part, which I should, theoretically know most of.  I’m also going to post most, but not all, of these after my last SAS Base post which will hit on May 11, 2013.  If I have to write as many posts as I expect I’ll need to, I’m probably looking at SAS Advanced content on this site running through August, maybe even September.  I will also try, where it’s reasonable, to compare MySQL and SQL Server to the SAS PROC SQL implementation.  That could get painful, so no guarantees on it.

And, for the 3 readers I have, who don’t wind up here because I’m the only guy, in the world, who has written anything about Cyberquery, I may never finish this.  I’m not hard-core committed to doing it.  I’d put the odds at better than 50/50 but I’m not sure they’re higher than that.

04 Apr

The Little SAS Book: A Primer, Fourth Edition

Available at Amazon.com

Available at Amazon.com

This is the kind of technical book that I really like.  It takes a topic, breaks it into simple and logical chunks and rolls through them with an example for each.  And, it does a good job of it.

First, this book is not an in-depth comprehensive review of statistics.  It’s directed at the SAS language, and for the most part, lines up nicely with the SAS Base certification.

Second, it’s not a deep review of the SAS language.  It takes you through most of the basics into some slightly more advanced topics.  As a starter kit, which is what it’s meant to be, it’s really good.

Third, and I’ve seen this put some people off, it has a relatively casual style to it.  I happen to like that style of writing.  I don’t need to read another stale author (especially since I have to proofread the stuff I write).  I’d rather read a book with examples from a frog jumping contest, than some of the alternatives.  It’s just plain more interesting.

Now, with the semi-negative out-of-the-way, here’s is what the book does.  It takes you through a series of examples, around 100, give or take, using SAS.  Most, but not all, of the chapters / sections are only a couple of pages in length, usually, two.  The examples are quick, easy to follow and well done for the most part.

The book covers the following topics:

  • Data sets
  • PROC SORT, PROC PRINT and a few others.
  • ODS
  • Combining data sets.
  • SAS Macros.
  • Graphing.
  • Exporting data.
  • Debugging data.

Like I said earlier, it’s not in-depth, but as a companion to the SAS Base Certification Guide, or as introduction to the language, it’s an excellent buy.  I have no problems recommending this book to someone wanting to learn SAS.

There is one negative about the book, it’s not cheap.  This, unfortunately, is a consistent trend with SAS books.  However, unlike the SAS certification books, this one is available used at a reduced price.  You can get it at the link below:

The Little SAS Book: A Primer, Fourth Edition

03 Apr

SAS Certification Prep Guide: Base Programming for SAS 9, Third Edition

Available at Amazon.com.

Available at Amazon.com.

I’m not sure what to say about this book except that If you want to pass the certification you probably need to get it.

The exam objectives are very broad, or maybe vague, so if you want to know what to study, you probably need to get this book.

Sure the book is overly long, has a few errors, is a bit repetitive, and it’s not cheap, but, you probably need to get it.

Yes, this reviews sucks, but if you want to pass the SAS Base exam you probably need to get this book.

Available at Amazon.com.

SAS Certification Prep Guide: Base Programming for SAS 9, Third Edition


01 Apr

SAS Base: Passed

dsl2_WEB_credit_FWSSo I passed this thing today.  It wasn’t by hitting two 3 run home runs, more like I beat out a weak grounder to short, but, I beat it out.  A few observations on the test while preserving the NDA.

If you’ve read my posts you’ve probably noticed that SAS is a language that bugs me a bit.  There’s just too much variation in how something works in one place relative to over yonder.  This needs an equal sign, that one a comma, that one neither, this one both, that one a parenthesis, and so on and so forth.  It’s sort of like Wily E Coyote.  Wily E, is one smart dude but you never know what he’s going to do next.  SAS syntax seems that way to me.

It makes it hard to prepare for a test, and probably to write test questions.  When I did the Oracle SQL Expert, Oracle didn’t screw around.  They simply came at you with hard, and direct, questions about the subject.  There wasn’t any discombobulation in the question.   SAS is more like old school Microsoft that way.  It’s like they have to trick you, although I’m sure they would see it differently instead of directly challenging you.

To put that in perspective, I had enough time to check every question on the test.  There were a handful, under 5, that I absolutely didn’t know or took a guess at.  The rest I thought I knew, or I was at least comfortable with the answer.  Yet, I missed several of those.  My guess is that I scanned a few questions too fast and didn’t get the one hiccup in the question, or the code, that caused it to go one way or another.

And, to be blunt, there’s a lot of opportunity for that sort of thing in the language.

On the other hand, I should probably have taken 2 more days and tried every screwy thing I could think of with the code.  I did that in a couple of posts but I clearly didn’t do enough of it.

All of that sounds like I failed the test.  Nope!  It definitely says PASS!.

Similar to my SSIS/MCSA stuff, I probably won’t write about SAS for a while.  I wrote 60 posts in 6 days.  Since May 5th I’ve written, my guess, between 40,000 and 50,000 words of content, or, a middle-sized book.  That is a lot of writing and I need a break.  I’m not sure what project I’m going to take on next.  I have a number of ideas: SSAS, SSRS (leading to the MSCE), SAS Advanced or Hadoop.  I may even do a few more basic SQL posts, which I’m kind of overdue in writing.  There’s a really old-school command line game that I’d like to write in T-SQL.

Anyways, if you happen to stumble across this, I hope it helps you, it helped me to write it.

24 Mar

Professional Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Integration Services

Available at Amazon.com

Available at Amazon.com

This will be short.

I wanted to add this book to the review section because I did use it during the SSIS test prep process. Unfortunately, I came to heavily rely on the MSDN near the end so it was down on the list in terms of how much I used it.

I used the book as a reference. For instance, when I wanted to know more about blocking transformations and scripting this this was my resource. It also does a good job of covering transformations and tasks but I’m not sure that their 24-hour book isn’t the better choice for that. On the other hand, this has a lot more technical depth than the 24-hour book so it’s kind of an either/or type of thing.

I also have to admit that I didn’t even come close to reading the whole book. I started tuning out around page 200. I was really looking for test preparation, not, detail. And the one thing this book is not, is test preparation.

Also, the book does not cover, at least I didn’t read it if it does, Master Data Services or Data Quality Services. It touches on Data Warehousing, it pretty much has to, but it doesn’t go hard into data warehousing concepts.

In closing, I’m not going to score the book. I don’t think I read it closely enough for that. I’ll just say that it was part of the study process, it helped in a couple of emergency situations and I think it could be useful if you wanted to learn the product. But, for a primary testing resource or as an entry level tome, I think there are better options.

Available at Amazon.com

21 Mar

The Review: Training Kit (Exam 70-463): Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft® SQL Server® 2012

Image2A few weeks ago I did what, I guess you can call a prereview, of this book (you can read it here) and I was very frustrated with it.  I believe, without checking the review that I gave it a -5.  I’ve mellowed a bit, and now rate the book higher, but, I just can’t get to the point that I think “wow, they really nailed it”.  There’s just too much frustration in it for me.

This review will focus on the following things:

  • Content
  • Exercises
  • measureUp practice test.
  • How well it prepares you for the test.

Lets start with the first one of those.


This is one of two areas that I’ve somewhat mellowed on the book.  When I started my writing binge there were a small handful of times where this book was the only place to go.  The MSDN was funky, both of the Knight books, which were very SSIS specific, maybe didn’t cover the concept well, and I wound up using the book as my primary source.  It really does cover the breadth of the content, and there is a lot of breadth to cover.

However, despite 850 pages, there are times you are wishing for something more.  You are wishing for an explanation that just isn’t there.  As such, I wound up using the MSDN, a lot.  In some cases, you get a single paragraph on a transform, and nothing else.  Or, they skim a topic, or, the explanation is confusing.

However, the scope of the book is easily is greatest strength so, for that, it gets 3 Tucos.



This is a hard thing to score, except for one simple thing, they are why I stopped reading the book.  I can’t begin to tell you how frustrating it is, well maybe my stuff has this same problem, but I don’t have an editor and I’m not getting paid, to do an exercise and it doesn’t work.  It doesn’t work the first, second or third time.  Sometimes, when you dig, and dig far enough, you find out that you missed a crucial step.  Maybe, you were moving too fast, or maybe, the author had a bad habit of lumping steps together.

In some cases, however, the base package that you are supposed to be working from just dies.  In one case, I received an error for a missing table.  The instructions say to load the code from an earlier chapter but that code doesn’t have the table.  I finally find the code in the starter code for the chapter.  The exercise, and they did this every time it was necessary prior to this, doesn’t mention it.  So, I load the table, run the package, and everything runs fine.  One small problem, the code is supposed to throw an error.

That was the last exercise I tried to do.  I simply gave up on the book’s exercises at that point.  The author badly needed to find an intern, or even better a completely non-technical person, hand them the exercises, and watch all the problems.

One last thought on this section.  It’s possible that the author will fix the sample code at some point.  If he did, my overall rating of this book would be much better.  The current state of that code is simply a disaster.

No Tuco’s for the exercises.

measureUp Practice test

This is another case of “what they give, they immediately take away”.  The positives, for me, were that it covered a lot of content.  It is probably the inspiration behind half the SSIS articles on this site.  I would do a sample test, note that I didn’t know an area perfectly, and, there you go, content for an article.  My final test preparation consisted of going through all of the questions (there are 189), noting areas that I was weak on, and using those as an area to focus on.  It really helped in that respect.

On the other hand.  This test almost caused me to give up.  I never came close to passing it, and I mean not even close.  For the first few weeks of studying, I would take the test as a guide post, not as a study guide, and not only did I see very little progress, I actually went backward.  I think 2 weeks prior to taking the test I broke 40%, and I think I scored 30%, one-time after that.  In practice test land, 80% is passing, I never broke 60, yet, I passed the actual test with room to spare.

When I entered the final review phase, and basically just reviewed the test questions, I discovered why I was having so many problems.  There is a lot of awkward language, awkward questions and in some cases answers to questions that I don’t agree with.  On the actual exam itself I don’t think I was confused by a question.  There were a couple where I had to guess at the final answer but there was nothing where I did a “what the heck are they asking here”.

One of the really frustrating things about old-school Microsoft exams is that they used to be vague.  You could look at a question, interpret a couple of reasonable answers, and you had to determine which was “the best” for the situation they were describing.  And, in different situations they might both be “best”.  In a sense, the tests were using vagueness to generate difficulty, rather than using difficulty to generate difficulty.  I feel the same way about this practice test.

However, all of that aside, I think it did help, it’s just that it subtracted from the experience too.  I’ll give it 2-1/2 Tucos.


Test Preparation

Well, this is what counts, and it will be short.  I stopped studying from the book 2 weeks prior to the test.  I did, in a couple of cases, review concepts using it.  Out of the 60 articles I wrote during that time, maybe, and I really mean maybe, I used it for 10 of those.  So, it had some content that I found useful and worthy.  And, it does touch on everything you will find on the test, and in some cases it even does a good job.  However, for the most part, I found myself relying on the MSDN, or third-party articles almost exclusively.

The one thing, however, that I have to give it credit for, is that this test covers a lot of areas, and the book does touch all of those areas, from what I can tell.  It’s just that, the overall presentation, when combined with the practice tests and the exercises, well, it’s very frustrating.   On the other hand, I did pass the test, and this book was part of it, although the MSDN was much more of a part of it in the end.

So, two Tuco’s for test preparation.



Honestly, I really hate to do what I’m about to do.  The author took a very large topic and produced a ton of content (over 850 pages).  They absolutely deserve to be commended for that.  And given the massive profits they’ll no doubt receive (that’s sarcasm) I hate to down rate a book like this.  Further, a lot of the problems in this book are likely due to not just the author, but sloppy editing and a publishing house that hasn’t done a very good job with these books.  For instance, the 70-461 book had chapters out of order in it.

Still, I can’t shake the fact that I almost quit studying because of it, and not once, not twice, but multiple times I threw the book at a wall in sheer frustration when something didn’t work.  Even if I concede that some of that was me, and surely it was, I never felt that way about the Knight books.  So, my final scores are 2 Tucos in it’s current state, and 3 Tucos if they fix the sample exercises and clean up the presentation of the exercises in the future.

Final Score:


If they fix the exercises:


You can get the book at Amazon.com at the link below:

Training Kit (Exam 70-463): Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft® SQL Server® 2012

20 Mar

70-463 Passed

Tuco: “You want to know who you are? Huh? You want to know who’s son you are? You don’t, I do, everybody does… you’re the son of a thousand fathers, all bastards like you.”
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

Well, for my legion of readers, the three who aren’t throwing bot-spam my way, I passed this thing.  It turned out to be easier than I had feared.  Without going into any specifics, as I’m now non-disclosed, it was surprisingly clean and direct.  I didn’t post a score that will have Microsoft checking for hacks but I passed with room to spare.  If I had studied for the T-SQL test like this I might not have missed a question.

Anyways, I’ll start with some new stuff soon and I plan to review the 70-463 Training Kit, again, as well as go over a generic study guide for the test.  I got really sideways in the preparation process and there are some really specific reasons for that which might make for interesting reading.

One last note on the SSIS content.

I have 42 posts on SSIS scheduled to hit this blog (through 04/27).  All of those were written before taking the exam.  As such, except to make corrections (I’m sure there are spelling, grammar and technical issues in them), I won’t touch them again, nor will I clarify any of them in the context of whether they may have, or may not have, been on the test.  What this will do is produce some weird time-distortions where posts show up saying “I think this will be on the test”, as if I haven’t taken the test, yet, here I am having taken the test.  Here is what happened.

  • 02/? – 03/05 – Going nowhere, and getting there fast, trying to study for the 70-463 test.
  • 03/05 – In a fit of complete frustration, on the verge of giving up, I make a decision: to study by writing blog posts.
  • 03/06 – 03/18 – 60 posts written and scheduled through 04/27, averaging more than 2000 words/day.
  • 03/19 – 70-463 taken and passed.
  • 03/20 – Stops, for the most part, writing about SSIS.

So, like I said, it may make for offbeat reading, but combining this with a massive plowing of the MSDN, and other study resources, I got through it.

03 Mar


Anyone who has bought the 70-462 Training Kit knows that the author recommends you set up an environment with 6 boxes or virtual servers. I have to admit that I didn’t do that and instead went for brute force memorization which happened to work in that case, mostly because I had lots of questions on security.

Unfortunately, the 70-463 exam has a section on Master Data Services, which when combined with Data Quality Services is 15% of the test. The 70-463 Training Kit, continuing to provide excellent information and detail, says that you can install it on Windows 7, you just have to do it differently. WRONG! AGAIN! You can only install it on Windows 7 Ultimate because that’s the only version that can use Windows Authentication. I discovered that after wasting a few more hours, a common theme with the 70-463 Training Kit.

So, given that, and given that any number bigger than 0 on that section would be good, I decided to install a virtualization solution. I spent, I dunno, maybe 5 minutes doing research, in other words, I looked at the first website that came up in Google, which said use Virtualbox and go here to get it. Knowing that the first page of a Google search is always above reproach, especially the very first result, off I went.

And here’s what happened.

I downloaded it, installed it, I went through the settings twice as I needed to configure it for the 64-bit windows server version and it’s working. I’ve downloaded and installed 2008 R2 Server (evaluation), it connected to the internet and SQL Server 2012 is happily installing as I write this. It could not possibly have gone smoother.

To be fair, I haven’t done any networking tests, and probably won’t, the installations are all very basic, and I’ve gone full “Simple Jack” on everything, but it’s working. And, after working with the 70-463 Training Kit for the last few weeks, that’s a very refreshing experience.

You can get Virtualbox at the link below.


Note, I did have one small issue, CTRL-ALT-DELETE would bring up the Windows 7 menu.  It turns out I need to use the host key + Delete.  The host key can be found under File / Preferences / Input.

02 Mar

Training Kit (Exam 70-463): Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft® SQL Server® 2012

Note: This isn’t really a review. It’s more of an example, one of many, of what I’m finding in the book.  Also, I’m mellowing on the book’s content.  It’s been useful, unlike the exercises.

I’ve been studying for 70-463 and frankly it’s been going slower than the earlier two, much slower. In fact, it’s been a real struggle to study for, so much so that I’m finding excuses to not study. What’s been especially frustrating is that I thought I knew something about data warehousing and SSIS but I struggle to get even basic things done with the exercises in this book. Well, it turns out, after a lot of digging, that maybe it isn’t all me. Here’s one example from the book.

Chapter 13, titled “Troubleshooting and Performance Tuning”, which is all good, as it fits right in with the first exercise and will actually happen. It will break and you won’t know why.

Exercise 1 consists of the following steps.

  1. Install missing database objects, assuming you didn’t install them earlier, by executing the chapter 5 code scripts to build them for the TK463 DW database.
  2. Open the Chapter 13 project in the starter kit.
  3. Execute the package to retrieve an error.
  4. Look in the data flow to find the error.
  5. Look on the progress tab. It also lists the specific error.
  6. Then it takes you through a couple of more steps to fix the error.

Here is what actually happens.

  1. The package crashes. Good!
  2. The error that comes up is not the error in the lesson 13 instructions which is supposed to be about truncating tables and a derived column transformation. Instead, you get this.

Error 5 DimCustomerNew.dtsx Validation error. Dim Customer: Dim Customer: Opening a rowset for “[stg].[SalesTerritory]” failed. Check that the object exists in the database.

This is a hard crash and there is nothing you can do about it. You can’t even get to the progress tab because the package won’t confirm. At this point I attempted the following:

  1. Tried both the starter and the completed package. Same error.
  2. Ran the chapter 5 setup script, several times, because, just maybe it would work the 4th time after not working the first three.
  3. Searched the PDF for a script to create the [stg].[SalesTerritory]. There were no references with it in a CREATE TABLE script.
  4. Executed every SQL script from chapter 5 to chapter 13. Chapter 13 had the script to build the stg.Salesterritory table.

You are probably wondering why I tried everything else first. Well, the instructions don’t mention the chapter 13 code folder, anywhere, they mention chapter 5. Second, this kind of thing has happened to me in chapter 5, chapter 7, chapter 10, chapter 4 was a fight but I got it to work. In fact, it’s happened so often that more than once I’ve thrown the book in frustration and walked away from a chapter. My assumption was that I had skipped a step in an earlier exercise or chapter out of frustration.

Nope, the starter code and the solution code, just like in a bunch of other chapters, is defective. So I run the Chapter 13 scripts and guess what happens.

The package runs perfectly. Everything turns green without error.

Normally that would be great news, except for one thing, it’s supposed to generate an error.

I gave up on the exercise at that point.

When I look at the earlier books, and some of the frustrations I had with them, I have to say that they pale in comparison to this. I would take the 70-461 book, rearrange every chapter in random order, instead of just the couple where they seemingly did exactly that, and it would still be light years ahead of this book.

Oh, and what could make this even better? Exercise 2, where everything runs without error, appears not to produce any results after you run the code. That’s probably a product of exercise 1 not working correctly, although without error, in some fashion.

If it were only chapter 13 I could move on but I find every exercise a struggle to complete. Even the one’s that work need multiple passes because it’s easy to miss a step where the author decided to combine multiple steps in an illogical fashion. By comparison, Knight’s 24 Hour Trainer, is incredibly easy to follow, has similar exercises in many cases, is clearly written, and almost everything works on the first pass.

I have no idea if the content in the book is enough to pass the test, I’m struggling to get past the exercises, and if it is I’ll revise my rating of the book, but the exercises are a -5.

Final note: This book is running 3-1/2 stars from 6 reviews on Amazon. Some of the reviewers gave it 5 stars. If this doesn’t make you distrust reviewers on Amazon I don’t know what would. I guess maybe they are just looking at the content and not doing the exercises but the exercises themselves are as sloppily put together as anything I’ve seen in a book.

You can get the book at the link below, and you likely will if you are studying for this test, because it’s the only one out there. Just know going in, it will be unpleasant if you decide to do the exercises.

Training Kit (Exam 70-463): Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft® SQL Server® 2012