Connecting to Microsoft Azure from Linux (Mac)

After wasting a couple of hours to fine tune the right settings for connecting to Microsoft Azure from Linux we managed to find the settings that works with MS SQL Server 2012, so I would like to share that with those of you that stumble across this blog and hopefully I can contribute to making your journey less painful as Microsoft Azure is really cool.

So I assume that you have FreeTDS installed.

Check FreeTDS version

You can check your FreeTDS version on terminal like this:

tsql -C

Response
Compile-time settings (established with the “configure” script)
Version: freetds v0.92.dev.20120312
freetds.conf directory: /usr/local/etc
MS db-lib source compatibility: no
Sybase binary compatibility: no
Thread safety: yes
iconv library: yes
TDS version: 5.0
iODBC: yes
unixodbc: no
SSPI “trusted” logins: no
Kerberos: no

Although this indicates that the TDS version is 5.0, I actually installed source version freetds-0.92.dev.20120312.

FreeTDS connection string for Azure SQL Server 2012

Type the following on terminal:

TDSVER=7.1 tsql -H database1.database.windows.net -D DEFAULT_DB -p 1433 -U user1

type in the password and once authenticated you will see the following that is an indication of success:

Password:
locale is “C/UTF-8/C/C/C/C”
locale charset is “UTF-8”
using default charset “UTF-8”
Setting DEFAULT_DB as default database in login packet
1>

Useful links

http://www.freetds.org/userguide/

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Cloud data storage: Cloud hosting

There is still a lot of uncertainty on aspects around cloud data storage that still makes this a bit of a contentious issue amongst business decision makers, preventing them to encapsulate on the benefits of cloud hosting. 

Some questions that indicate a level of uncertainty are:

  • 1. Where does my business data ACTUALLY get stored?
  • 2. Is my data stored somewhere that I am not aware off?
  • 3. What are my rights to access or ownership of my own business data in cloud data storage within any location?
  • 4. How do I protect my business against issues arising from cloud data storage?

So for the purpose of this discussion we will be dealing with number 1: Where does my business data ACTUALLY get stored when I evaluate cloud hosting options?

Data Sovereignty Protocol

The aspect that governs the location and storage of your data is referred to as ‘data sovereignty protocol’. This protocol attempts to deal with 2 aspects:

  • 1. proof of the physical location of a server
  • 2. proof that data is stored at this physical location

 So some ways to determine this is to look at:

  • 1. whois databases, which now has protection capability so this might not give you much insight
  • 2. DNS records
  • 3. Manual inspection of Internet artifacts

The following tools have gone a long way in giving some monitoring capability of your data storage cloud service provider: 

  • 1. CloudCmp
  • 2. SLAm
  • 3. Nimsoft’s commercial monitoring service
  • 4. Geobytes.com (my personal favourite)

 

Finding the location of your database server on cloud hosting by using Geobytes.com

So we have a Microsoft SQL Server staging environment currently on Microsoft Azure cloud hosting on the following IP: 94.245.114.93. If I go to Geobytes.com on the following link: http://www.geobytes.com/IpLocator.htm?GetLocation and I type in this IP, this is the response I get:

As you can see, the information available to you on the location of your cloud data storage is:

  • 1. Country of cloud data storage
  • 2. City of cloud data storage
  • 3. Latitude of cloud data storage
  • 4. Longitude of cloud data storage

 

Finding the location of your database server on cloud hosting by using RIPE

Go to the following link: https://apps.db.ripe.net/search/query.html and enter your IP. You will see a similar result to this:

 

So the organisational details of the IP owner relating to your cloud data storage provider are also available.

The following information is available to you for your cloud hosting provider:

Relevant links:  http://research.microsoft.com/pubs/136448/cloudcmp-imc2010.pdf

 

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Using Pivotal Tracker as a time management tool

The stuff of fairy tales

If you’re anything like me, time management is about as elusive as a golden unicorn that lives in a rainbow. Somehow, things just get too busy and chaotic and at the end of the day I realise I haven’t gotten to half of what I needed to do. And it doesn’t help that, like the unicorn, I am easily distracted by anything (Oh look – a new email!). I have subscribed to the theory that you should do things as they come across your desk, i.e. don’t procrastinate and leave it for later. But that just kinda exacerbates my problem – you know, the easily distracted one – because I will then start a whole bunch of things as they come to me, but end up not finishing any of them.

Getting it done

I have certainly tried (and still use) the old faithful to do list and it definitely helps in terms of keeping myself organised with a clear view of what needs to be done for that day. I find writing down the tasks I need to get through as therapeutic, as one can easily feel disorientated and overwhelmed when you don’t know where to start. So I suppose starting things is not really my problem, but rather completing them. You could say this is an occupational hazard, because as an Internet Marketer, my work is never complete, but rather a continuous flow of activity. So how do you manage that?

The answer

Well a tool called Pivotal Tracker seems to be the answer. Known as a software development management tool in techy circles and used by Infoware Studios in Agile Technology Delivery; it seems to be a great time management tool too.

For the complete novice (that means me), Pivotal tracker works with 3 sections, namely Icebox (ideas you have that have not yet been started), Backlog (projects that are in your que), Current (projects you are currently busy with) and my personal favourite, Done. You can create projects (called stories), add tasks, add comments, allocate points (basically how long it will take you to complete the project) and labels (for specific groupings). So far, my methodology in using Pivotal Tracker as a time management tool is to create projects for the week on a Monday morning. And then first thing every morning to check what must be done, add whatever else has come up and then manage the tasks throughout the day. And so far – success! It is keeping me constantly on track and focused on what needs to be done, and oh how I love it when items go into the Done column!

Although Pivotal Tracker is mainly for managing large projects and business use, it can be useful and helpful in a personal capacity too. Have any of you used Pivotal Tracker as a time management tool? Perhaps you have other time management tools you use? Leave a comment and let me know what works for you.

More details on the elements of Pivotal Tracker to follow in future posts!

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Comparing Ruby PDF gem for PDF document generation

There seems to be 2 main Ruby pdf gem’s doing the rounds at the moment:

  1. PDF::Writer: see site and the manual
  2. Prawn PDF: see site and the manual
  3. PDFKit: see site

So the first to ruby PDF gems are for writing custom PDF’s using unique positioning and graphical elements where as option 3 is converting html into PDF.

So the purpose of this evaluation is to choose the best of the two suited for the following exercise:

How do you combine the flexibility of these 2 ruby pdf gems with some funky intelligent graphing capability for reports?

So the reason for option 3 is obvious. We can use a javascript library like D3 to embed graphical elements into an HTML file and just render that to PDF.

So I believe that this covers the right aspect of tools to determine what is the best approach.

The answer: you will have to wait and see.

Installing Prawn PDF ruby pdf gem

With rvm install, change to the ruby version that you are interested in on your machine

So on the command line:

rvm 1.9.3

sudo gem install prawn

Done

Installing PDF::Writer ruby pdf gem

For PDF Writer 2 additional gems are needed:

transaction-simple-1.4.0.gem

color-1.4.1.gem

So on the command line

rvm 1.9.3

sudo gem install transaction-simple v ‘1.4’

sudo gem install pdf-writer v ‘1.1.8’

Installing PDFKit

So on the command line

sudo gem install pdfkit

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