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Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Integration Services: An Expert Cookbook


I worked already with DTS, then with the previous SSIS versions (2005, 2008) but it was not my main activity, only occasional work items.

Now SSIS 2012 is becomed an huge , very complete product and i’m more involved in this argument, so i buyed some books on the argument.

The typical problem of a newcomer to this argument is that after opening SSDT you are staring at the screen observing the icons and wondering what are these items and how to correctly use them , when and where.

For example many icons are intuitive, a “Send Mail Task” is clear what it do, a “Data Flow Task” is intuitive that is something related to data transformations, but inside a “Data Flow Task” begins to appear strange things: no more the intuitive “Script Task” where i code immediately something in VB or C# but an “Script Component” that asks if should a be a Data Source or Destination (a script..as Data Destination?) , the “DQS Cleansing”, “Slowly Changing Dimension”…help…

This book is a valid starting point, even if is not updated to the latest SSIS version: for the examples is used the Visual Studio 2010 shell, but is valid also for the SSDT version working inside Visual Studio 2012.

I began to follow all of the chapters in June in the spare time, and in the meantime i migrated from the Visual Studio 2010 shell to 2012 , without encounter big differences.

This Expert Cookbook is developer oriented , so is not writing about items as “Message Queue Task” , “Maintenance Cleanup Task” , “Maintenance Cleanup Task”, etc. and inside a Data Flow Task arguments as the “Data Mining Query” are not mentioned in the book.

Anyway the book is a very valid introduction to the core tasks that a developer typically does in the everyday work, with some arguments as the DQS Cleansing (the Data Quality functionality of SQL Server 2012) well explained.

Sometimes the book is verbose (some SQL repeated instead of send the reader to a previous page) and sometimes following the samples you can encounter errors (for example a field that cannot be null) , but are minor issues that a developer can easily solve.

Some samples are showed as easily working when instead there are little problems, for example the fact that does not exists an 64 bit driver for Excel (see this previous post) and the connection to mySQL is not simple as showed in the book (origin of another post).

There also other minimal logical errors in the explanation flow that a reader which follows with attention can easily fix.

Arguments as Merge Join Transform. Text Analysis, Fuzzy Transformations , ForEach loops, Asynchronous Script, the entire Deployment chapter, Data Tap, the Restartability and Robustness chapter are very valuable and i learned some very useful techniques for my job.

A very useful chapter is the 14, “Programming SSIS”, in which is explained how to create custom components.

Thw downloadable code is very valuable but i recommend to develop the solutions step by step , so it will be very clear how the things are working.

Categories: Books, SQL Server, SSIS, Vs2010, Vs2012

Vs2012 experience and a CookBook

After 3 months of usage i can make an evaluation.

I have adopted Visual Studio 2012 3 months ago in a .NET 4.0 project, created with the SPA concept (Single Page Application) that is with a JQuery heavy use: it is a mission critical project with many concurrent users and a heavy load on the database (Sql Server 2008) .

The first problem was the user interface, sincerely the old Visual Studio 2010 is more user friendly; fortunately the icons now are less monocromatic than the beta versions, it was a nightmare… i thinked one year ago: but in the future i must use this orrible interface ?

The things goes better with the “Color Theme Editor” extension that permits with the Blue theme a look more “2010 style”; and i have changed the text colors until i got my preferred “dark” interface:


Another bad thing: the capital letters for the menus (as in Office 2013)…. i don’t understand this choice, is very ugly.

The real problem in Vs 2012, as in Office 2013 and Windows 8, is the lack of rounded corners that gives an unhappy feeling of old technologies: i have worked with Windows 1.03 , Windows 286, 386, SCO Unix etc. and the “Modern” interface remember to me something…

In my Windows 7 pc i have deactivated many effects in order to maximize the performances, but IMHO a bit of Aero & rounded corners makes the work environment better to use, and some more colors in the icons effectively helps.

Apart the initial interface shock and some effort in order to customize the work environment, Vs2012 is very valid for the everyday work and in some features (searching on files, for example) is better than Vs2010, i must admit.

The solution file (.sln) format for the first time is not changed in a new Visual Studio version, so i can work to the same files with other programmers that still uses Visual Studio 2010; for this project was imposed to use an old Visual Source Safe 2005 and Visual Studio 2012 can make Checkins and Checkouts of files managed from other programmers with Vs 2010, without problems.

Searching resources for Visual Studio 2012 i have buyed the book “Visual Studio 2012 CookBook“, published from Packt Publishing:


The subtiitle is “50 simple but incredibly effective recipes to immediately get you working with the exciting features of Visual Studio 2012” .

This book is a very good reference, reading the pages i have discovered interesting things about the interface use, and are briefly explained all the new project types.

If you know Visual Studio 2010 this book is effectively focused on the differences, without unuseful explanations of basic techniques.

.NET 4.5 development, async web programming, Windows 8 apps are well covered as starting point, with a not easy chapter on C++.

Very valid the chapter 8 on TFS 2012, that gives a good hint on how to correctly start to use the Backlog, Work Items , Code Reviews and so on.

Good price, less than 250 pages but valid in order to start with Visual Studio 2012: for me it was useful.

Categories: Books, Vs2012

Book review: SharePoint 2010 Workflows in action

I have read this Manning book in order to achieve a better knowledge about workflows, and it was very useful.

The book is not recent, but it took a long time in order to follow in the spare time the examples.

Every type of workflow is well examined , with clear examples that i was able to follow and repeat , without using the downloadable book code.

I was buying the book as part of the MEAP program (Manning Early Access Program) which is useful because you access the book while is not still fully finished: this has some drawbacks (typos, an approssimative look) but when a technology is very “fresh” could be an serious advantage.

The book starts from an exam of the workflows type can you develop (using the out of the box workflows that you can add via browser, SharePoint Designer ,Visual Studio) with a clear explanation of what is available in SharePoint Foundation and what in the SharePoint Server edition.

In the book are developed some workflows starting from adding a workflow in a library tools (Chapter 2) using the settings page, then in Chapter 3 are examined the workflows done with SharePoint Designer, with an very useful example about a calendar: in this chapter are well explained the components of a workflow.

Chapter 4 is interesting , is about the relations between Workflows and task processing with useful examples about task assigning from a workflow.

Chapter 5 , about advanced workflows with Designer, reveals and well explains some very interesting concepts about security and the use of external data sources.

The use of Visio for workflows development is explained in Chapter 6: i was tempted to skip, but anyway how to have an diagram in your workflow page that shows the followed logic (with Visio Services) could be useful.

The Chapter 7 is about to develop workflow forms with Infopath: the example of to have a form containing a table for expenses with totals is interesting , even if not completed (the reader will review in Chapter 9 this example that will be finished with the calculations).

The Chapter 8 is about custom Visual Studio workflows, so it is very developer oriented and the first part ,where are explained the Activities that you could put in a workflow, is very valuable.

Here i have encountered some problems on the book code that i have explained in my previous post.

At the end of page 202 there is an invite to deploy solution, but before you should make the steps of page 203.

For a State Workflows is not so easy ,as the book depict, to have an State Workflow working with an OnWorkFlowItemChanged , for me is better to use an EventHandler and then from this launch the WorkFlow (without the OnWorkFlowItemChanged event management).

In Chapter 9 is interesting the part “Adding .NET code to an InfoPath form”, but the book doesn’t explain well that when you add code in a InfoPath form then (at least in my experiments) the Publishing by Quick Publish does not work (you get an error for InternalStartup routine) and you must publish by File->Publish->SharePoint Server and choose Administrator-Approved (then manage the upload in http://<server><port>/_admin/manageformtemplates.aspx); following this path for every successive update.

In every case i have noticed that using the InfoPath filler at runtime the events works correctly, in the browser the events are working only when you save and you don’t set the property Postback of the Amount control to “Always”.

The Chapter 10 is about the Tasks, more interesting is Chapter 11 on Custom activities and conditions: here is explained how to create your activities library with some useful tricks for the every day work.

Very interesting the section in Chapter 11 where is explained how to develop a .actions file, in order to have custom actions and conditions in the SharePoint Designer: i think that the samples could be more simple but is ok.

In the last Chapter 12 there are interesting hints for debugging and fault handlers, hints on versioning, and some samples on the workflow object model.

But the very interesting part in this chapter is on the Pluggable workflow services, that is how to communicate from a workflow with the external world (another database, for example).

Categories: Books, SharePoint

Book review: Windows Workflow Foundation 4.0 Cookbook

I have a good knowledge of SharePoint workflows, but in this case i’m working to an ASP.NET 4 project with a complex business logic so i decided to use workflows as in SharePoint.

In order to understand the differences between ASP.NET 4 and SharePoint workflows, i have read this book.

The 8 chapters are full of practical informations, only chapter 4 about the collections manipulation could be less verbose; but anyway the 70 recipes are good.

From the first pages i have learned interesting things, as the fact that WF 4.0 expressions can be written only in VB, no C# (could be in a future version).

The first chapter is full of examples about basics, for example how to initialize a Workflow with InArguments, use of InOut args,and so on; good the explanation of async workflows.

Appreciable the explanation about the testing a WF program with a unit test framework.

Every element of the workflow toolbox in Visual Studio is explained with useful examples as in chapter 2 for flow control activities,good the part about messaging and transactions in chapter 3.

The custom activities are explained in chapter 5, in chapter 6 there are the most important things as the SQL persistence store; i have verified that the samples are working with SQL Server 2012.

Chapter 7 is about the hosting of the workflow applications, and the very important part is about the hosting in IIS7 (well explained) because the hosting in ASP.NET ,WPF or Windows Forms is explained but not (correctly) recommended.

The last chapter (8) is about a very advanced argument: the construction of a custom IDE for authoring workflows for users that does not have Visual Studio, but needs to modify the workflows; is not common a customer with such requests, but anyway could be a interesting idea for some extreme customizations.

The book has some very minimal errors (for example in the ETW tracking part is not mentioned that the log in the event viewer must be enabled) but i was able to do almost all of the examples without problems.

There isn’t a complex practical example, the common problem in the examples is a simple addition of two numbers , but as a reference this book is very valuable.

Categories: Books

Book review: Professional SharePoint 2010 Branding

This Wrox book is really useful in order to better understand the concepts in the SharePoint branding field.

It begins by illustrating the differences among the available master pages (minimal, nightandday, etc.) and Content Pages: the explanation of Publishing pages is well done and clear.

The process of creating a custom master pages starting from an HTML mockup is clear and complete, the explanation of DOCTYPES and Ie8 compatibility modes is finally explained from someone in a clear mode.

Css and Xslt web parts are explained with useful hints how to do the things in the best manner, and the errors to avoid.

The book starts from simple branding to end with a very advanced customization, with clear samples that i have followed without finding errors.

There are some parts , for example the workflows explanation, which is not so strictly related to the branding but useful.

Very useful the part where is explained how to hide correctly the ribbon, with very interesting ready to use css tricks.

The only Chapter 11 worth the price, in this section is very well explained how to deploy the branding solution to another site.

Every procedure is explained step by step, sometimes in a very verbose manner but clearly.

“Web Parts and XSLT” chapter is another useful source of informations; the final part (Page editing and ribbon, Client object model and JQuery, Silverlight and SharePoint integration) is still more developer oriented but is another helpful reference.

With the help of this book i was able to start from the Randy Drisgill starter master pages and achieve a good publishing master page without spending my time in Google long searches ,and i have read mind opening examples that will be very useful.

Categories: Books, SharePoint

Pro SharePoint 2010 Search

For the first thing thanks to Apress for the opportunity of review this book.

Many years ago i have developed a sort of ante-litteram SharePoint: it was an classic ASP site, where the indexing engine of Windows Server 2000 was crawling some folders, coupling some properties with the items: so for me the SELECT FROM SCOPE syntax was not unknown.

Now from some years i’m an professional SharePoint developer, working primarily on web parts and workflows; but it is easy working with SharePoint, especially for small sites, to wear some “hats”: as developer, as administrator, as web designer.

But until some months ago i had not worked with some administrative aspects as the Search engine; so, since i was really interested to fill this gap even for to see the differences with my previous experience, i began to read and follow the examples of “Pro SharePoint 2010 Search”.

The book is well written , the first chapter expose with clarity the differences among the search products as the base search functionality on Foundation, the Search Server (speaking even of the free express version for Foundation), and the FAST Search Server.

The first seven chapters are more administrator (and power users) oriented: concepts as crawler, indexer, scalability, limits of the products, use of powershell, hardware hints, estimation of search db size are well exposed; to the reader are suggested important guidelines.

Important steps as the planning of the search deployment , the configuration of pages used from the users for searching terms are well organized step by step.

The query sintax and operators are detailed with clarity in chapter 5.

In chapters 6 are well explained federated search, stemmers, word breakers.

Search pages layouts, with interesting hints as the ones for rating, are well explained in chapter 7.

From chapter 8 begins the parts more developer oriented, with interesting c# samples about using the search API.

Chapter 9 is dedicated to the Business Connectivity Services: good samples about creating an BCS from SharePoint Designer and Visual Studio 2010; and obviously how to crawl then search in the BCS source.

Chapter 10 returns to be more administrator oriented: is exposed how relevancy of search results and reporting are useful for monitoring as the search infrastructure is used, and point out if are needed some adjustments.

The last chapter, 11, is dedicated to the search extensions: here is explained how to extend the SPS2010 Search through free and purchasable third-party extension, with a special focus on FAST search server and Ontolica search.

By reading with attention the book and trying “on the field” i was able to create some good search solutions: securely is a fields that needs a lot of experience as the book authors for to achieve the best results, anyway this book for me was a very good starting point and is absolutely a good buy for Sharepoint administrators and developers.

This review can be viewed even in the Amazon site.

Categories: Books, SharePoint