Conversations with Gran about Databases

So, what’s going on in your databases world this week, young man? I paused, as always, a little unsure of what I was getting myself into. I’d been having these little “technical chats” with Gran ever since her ‘computer incident’, when a blue screen informing her of a “Fatal error: catastrophic failure“, had thrown her … Read more

Missing Data

In the real world of business or scientific reporting and analysis, data can prove to be awkward. It can be plain wrong or it can be altogether missing. Sure, we have the NULL to signify unknown, but that doesn't play well with regular business reporting. There are a number of ways of dealing with missing information, and methods of estimating data from existing data has a long and respectable history. Joe Celko gets to grips with a data topic that is often treated with some trepidation. … Read more

The Wrong Way to Clean Up the Internet

Having successfully fought several privacy battles, granting people the right to have themselves taken off Google search, and to have their records deleted from databases, it looks as if the European Union may soon want to regulate and license what you can watch on YouTube or other video content sites, and the audio-visual content you … Read more

Providing the Necessary Tools and Reports for Very Large IT Projects

For the larger development project using Agile/DevOps, there will always be the problem of comprehensive tooling and reporting. An all-encompassing ALM Integrated Development Environment will have some of what you need but is unlikely to meet your special requirements; Neither will a DevOps toolchain. Where do you start? You'll need to specify up-front what those requirements are, as Mohammad Rizvi explains.… Read more

When is the Data Deleted?

Imagine that your business is providing a service to individuals, and you charge by the amount of usage. You are trading your service internationally and need to keep a record of who among your customers does what. You then produce invoices and keep accounts. Your customers pay via a third-party service. So far so good. … Read more

Mixing MongoDB and Relational Databases in the Enterprise

Your Agile developers want MongoDB, or a similar document database: your Ops people are concerned about security and backup, and Governance are muttering about transactionality and data transfer between systems. Do you restrict your developers from rapidly-evolving the data design for their domain or do you embrace the joys of NoSQL unconditionally? If you accept a polyglot database environment, where the NoSQL lambs coexist with the relational lions, how do you provide tools and common database concepts that everyone can use and understand?… Read more

The SQL Server Features that Time Forgot

Every new release of SQL Server comes with new features that cause a ripple of excitement within the industry: well, amongst the marketing people anyway. What happens to all the exciting TLAs that are bandied about when a new version launches? It's mixed, it seems. Adam Machanic's classic post, The SQL Hall of Shame, has inspired Rob Sheldon to look back at some of the features that, though worthy, have may have failed to hit the mainstream.… Read more

IT Aphorisms for Developers

Developers enter their trade fizzing with untamed creative energy. They envision spending their days dashing out intricate algorithms that compile first time, developing creative applications that dazzle colleagues and users alike, before leaving the office each evening, with a swagger in their step, to work their new GitHub ‘side project’, which will one day soon … Read more

Should You Consider Agile for Very Large IT Projects?

Many large organisations are compelled to embark on wide-ranging business-transformation IT projects. They are difficult to manage because, in the intervening months before the end of the project, the changing business environment will have forced further changes on the business. Agile holds out the promise of managing these changes more easily. Mohammad Rizvi explains, from experience, some of the the issues you are likely to face, and how you can solve them.… Read more

Who was that masked man anyway?

Whenever you require a visit to the doctor, or hospital, a lot of personal data will likely be recorded, alongside details of your condition, the treatment you required, drugs prescribed and so on. At some point, you might have signed a consent form, one of the clauses of which allowed your data to be analyzed … Read more

Pseudonymization and the Inference Attack

It is surprising that so much can be identified by deduction from data. You may assume that you can safely distribute partially masked data for reporting, development or testing when the original data contains personal information. Without this sort of information, much medical or scientific research would be vastly more difficult. However, the more useful the data is, the easier it is to mount an inference attack on it to identify personal information. Phil Factor explains.… Read more

SQL Data Aggregation Aggravation

When we have to deal with and store a lot of data, it makes sense to aggregate it so that we store only the information we actually need. If we get this right, this works well, but the design of the system takes care and thought because the problems can be subtle and various. Joe Celko describes some of the ways that things can go wrong and end up providing incorrect, inaccurate or misleading results.… Read more

Morphing the Monolith

Microservices can certainly be made to work well for particular types of applications, but is it relevant to the mainstream? Can it replace the traditional architectures of database-driven applications? Microservice architecture is a type of service-oriented architecture that was developed from the concept of Domain-Driven design (DDD) and consists of loosely-coupled services that are network-based. … Read more

Fighting Evil in Your Code: Comments on Comments

One of the most glib generalisations you can make about development work is to say that code should be liberally commented, or conversely that it should never be commented. As always, the truth is more complicated. There are many different types of comment and some types are best treated firmly with the delete key, where others are to be cherished and maintained assiduously. Even though it is hard to find two developers who agree on the topic of commenting, Michael Sorens warily sketches out the issues and the battleground.… Read more

Working From Home

The idea that one can do nothing useful as a developer unless you are in an open plan office is rather retro. Although we all get that knowing wink when we announce that we are “Working from Home”, the truth is more complicated, I think. Some people are more productive when they work from home, … Read more

To Fly, To Serve, To Fry Your Servers

So, the story goes that an Ops engineer walked into a data center with the necessary pass, a cheery wave and a ‘good morning’. Shortly afterwards, he made history. At around 8.30AM, British Airway’s entire communications systems went down at the height of the May holiday, forcing them to cancel flights from the UK’s two … Read more

WannaCry Over Spilled Data

The WannaCry ransomware attack has highlighted a serious problem. If there is negligence in your IT strategy, you are increasingly risking the functioning of your organisation, and the privacy of your customers. If you are being careless with data you don’t own, and of which you are legally only the custodian, if you are storing … Read more

Personal Data, Privacy, and the GDPR

Now that there have been well-publicised examples of the awful consequences of data breaches and data misuse, there is increasing public pressure for legislation on privacy and personal data that has enough clout to prosecute serious offenders. In the vanguard has been the EU data protection regulation, soon to be succeeded by the GDPR. It defines IT practices for data that are likely to extend worldwide. William Brewer gives a rundown of what he sees as the implication for IT practice.… Read more

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