Blog Birthday

It’s my blog’s first birthday today! Seems like I’ve been writing it forever… Anyway, I’m quite pleased with how the first year of blogging has gone – I’ve managed to keep my resolution and posted something just about every week, and hopefully it’s been interesting and useful. I’ve learnt a lot too, made a lot of new friends and even managed to become the top-ranked "Chris Webb" on Google (for the moment)!
Next year will see a lot of changes for me professionally and with a bit of luck they will leave me more time for blogging as well as provide me with some new Microsoft-BI-related topics to blog about. As always, I welcome any kind of feedback/suggestions/tip-offs for news, either in public via comments or by email (check my profile for how to contact me).
Happy New Year!

New version of the Microsoft Excel Addin

Marco Russo notes that a new version of the Microsoft Excel Addin has been released which supports AS2005:
(Teo Lachev also comments on this here; I agree with what he says about OWC, and I’m trying to find out whether there will be an OWC in Office 12)
It’s a pleasant surprise that Microsoft have actually released another version of this addin, given that they’re now hard at work at integrating its features into Excel 12. I didn’t notice much that was different apart from the AS2005 support though.
However, if I can be permitted one small moan, I did spot a problem that I’ve seen in other AS2005-enabled clients and which I hope won’t turn into a trend. I found it by creating a report using Adventure Works, putting the measure [Internet Sales Amount] on columns and trying to put something from the Geography dimension on pages, which resulted in a dialog box informing me that the Geography dimension was unrelated to the [Internet Sales] measure group and stopping me from completing the operation. Now in 99% of cubes this would be a good thing to do, but I’ve already built a few cubes where I have dimensions that have no relation to any measure group but where selections on them do impact calculations (think solving the start/end date problem, where you might want to create an end date dimension with no relation to a measure group); of course, this client feature stops you from being able to design cubes in this way. It’s a case of the designers of the tool being a little bit too helpful… and it would be good to be able to turn this behaviour off in the Options dialog.

Visio 12 and BI

And the third link for today comes from Nick Barclay’s excellent blog, which I’m sure many of you read already – it’s on Visio 12’s BI capabilities:
Check out the PPT that he links to at the bottom of the post – some of those screenshots look very cool.

SPSS Statistical Services for SQL2005

The second potentially interesting set of BI-related tools today I saw mentioned on Jamie MacLennan’s blog: a beta of SPSS Statistical Services for SQL2005, which you can find out more about here:

A quick look at the user guide, which is also downloadable, shows what it’s all about. For AS2005 users there’s an addin for the Business Intelligence Development Studio which allows you to do two things: create calculated columns in your dsv which bin/band/bucketise values (for example if you had a Customer Age column you could use this to create a column which grouped ages into a number of age range categories), and explore the data in SPSS. For SSIS users there are a bunch of data flow and transformation components to do things like interact with SPSS data sources, do anomaly detection, and use various SPSS statistical functions.

SQL2005 BI Metadata Samples Toolkit

Courtesy of Karen Watterson, I’ve just found the ‘SQL2005 BI Metadata Samples Toolkit’, downloadable from here:
The demo video that you can see on the page above gives you a good idea of what this set of tools and samples does: it allows you to analyse the dependencies between objects in your AS databases and/or SSIS packages. So for example in an AS database you can click on a cube dimension and it will tell you which database dimension, data source view, data source and relational tables it has a dependency on. Might be quite useful on a large project where you have many developers working on the same cube.
Note that the sample tools need to be edited so that they point to the SQL Server/AS instances you are interested in and then compiled before they will work.
UPDATE: there’s a white paper to go along with these tools which can be downloaded here:

Brian Welcker on Analysis Services/Reporting Services integration

I’ve been quite vocal in my disapproval of the way that Analysis Services and Reporting Services integration has been handled over the last few months, so it’s only fair to publicise a posting on Brian Welcker’s blog which is I guess aimed at answering people like me:
I don’t accept some of the points he makes, though, and hopefully by the time you read this the comment I submitted will have gone through moderation and be visible.
However I do think the fact that the problem has been addressed in this way highlights the openness of Microsoft’s development teams and the positive effect that their willingness to blog, post on newsgroups etc has on customer satisfaction. Even though I’m still not satisfied with the functionality in question after reading Brian’s post, the feeling that I’m able to express my grievances and have them heard is makes me happier than if I thought no-one at all was listening.

My session at the PASS European Conference 2006

I mentioned the 2006 PASS European Conference a few months ago, but I thought I’d publicise the fact that I’ve been confirmed as a speaker (I don’t know whether that will sell any more tickets, or indeed keep people away):
I’ll be covering my new pet subject of MDX Scripting.
Nice to see Thomas Pagel and Markus Sprenger confirmed too; I’m sure there will be plenty of other good speakers appearing on that list in the near future. If anyone reading this is planning to attend, let me know and we can get a party together for dinner and drinks on the Thursday night.

SQL2005 Books Online December Update

SQL2005 Books Online was pretty awful at RTM, and I’ve just seen that MS have released an updated version already. You can get it here:
It’s something of a stealth release – I only heard about it while browsing Channel 9, not from any of the other SQL Server-related rss feeds I read. You’d think they’d publicise this kind of thing better.
Browsing through, though, I can see that it still contains several errors – see, for example, the CALCULATE statement where various features are documented that were dropped from the beta ages ago. But in this case I only have myself to blame: a few years ago I met a guy who worked on SQL BOL and he pointed out the ‘send feedback’ feature that’s available on every page – if you see a mistake then you can use this feature to send an email directly to the BOL team and presumably they’ll try to fix it before the next release. Needless to say when I first saw this particular entry I didn’t bother to send any feedback, but I have now and will make a special effort to do the same whenever I see any other mistakes.

New articles from Chris Harrington

Chris Harrington’s site has been quiet for a while, but he’s just mailed me to let me know about some new articles he’s posted up:
The last two are the really interesting ones – he’s doing some cool stuff with XMLA here.
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