Dinner with a Ninja

I went home to Michigan over the Memorial Day Weekend. While I was there I had dinner with a SQL Ninja who I’ve mentioned before, Brent Ozar.


I met him almost exactly a year ago when I came across his blog. He had an excellent article on Perfmon, and I was attempting to use it to troubleshoot problems I was having on my M2M server. I read the article and followed up with questions regarding it, as well as questions about the future of SQL Server and how I could gain a level of mastery with it.

He has been more than helpful and has suggested different avenues for me in SQL. Anyway, the reason this post has been so long in coming is I wanted to make it more than just a “look at me with this famous guy” post. I’d like to share a few tips on how to get help from others, not just in a technical sense, but in other areas such as career advancement.

  1. Obviously be polite. These people are not paid support and have no obligation to help you. Further, if you don’t receive a response, do not chastise them for not responding. This happened to me about 6 weeks ago. Someone sent me an e-mail asking for help with Crystal Reports and M2M. However, my spam filter caught it. When I went through my spam filter a little over a week later, I had three messages from this person and each was more rude than the last. Obviously, I didn’t bother helping this person.
  2. Do your best to help yourself. If you send someone a bunch of basic questions about invoicing they may very well tell you to watch the instructional videos on M2M Expert instead of helping you. I’ve always loved the following picture:


    It’s worth noting that Google is of limited value for M2M Questions.

  3. Ask for direction, rather than solutions. You’re more likely to get assistance if you show a willingness to experiment and learn. If you want someone to do your job, you’re likely to be rejected.
  4. If you get help and it is ultimately successful make sure to tell your benefactor and thank them again. In fact, if you found the answer yourself, still thank the person for taking the time to try to help you. You’ll be more likely to get help in the future.
  5. Offer friendship first. If at all possible, network with others before you need help.
  6. Form as complete a question as you possibly can. When you ask a question, and I have to ask you four separate questions before I can answer it, this does not bode well for you.
  7. Ask in a convenient way. If possible, send an e-mail as opposed to calling. Calling interrupts a geek’s normal work flow, and e-mails can be read and answered at our convenience.

Now, I should mention that Brent is one of the most helpful people I know in the business, so I could have made any number of mistakes and he still would likely have helped me. However, why lessen your chances?

What do you think? Do you disagree with my tips? Do you have anything to add?

Captcha if You Can

I follow a lot of forums, blogs, and other sites to further my SQL knowledge. We’ve all run into CAPTCHA over the years. The idea of course is that they are easily solved by humans, yet difficult or impossible for computers to solve.

However, it seems like it’s becoming more and more difficult to read them lately. I suspect that the sites have to develop more and more difficult CAPTCHA algorithms to counteract hacker programs which attempt to read them.

For example, the other day I happened by this article at Coding Horror, which is one of my favorite blogs. Jeff Atwood is amazing and if you haven’t read his stuff, do what I did, start at the beginning and read almost everything. Anyway, in that article he complains about the byzantine ways that software is priced and how he purchased too much memory for his SQL Server because SQL Server Standard is capped at 32gb.

I was going to reply with quip about how he should have hired (or at least asked) Brent Ozar, another genius blogger who I read religiously. However, when I attempted to do so, I was faced with the following:


Umm… outtakes krthella???

I dare you to tell me what that last “word” is. I can almost hear you saying, “Well, refresh and get another one.” However, these things are supposed to be easy and I had to refresh three times before I got one I could read. Instead of leaving my comment, I decided to blog about it instead.

Then I went to Craigslist because I run into CAPTCHAs there too and tried to list one of my old video games for sale. I ran into this:


Did you gues Corcillo bequeath? I did, but was incorrect.

I realize these sites need protection against spammers, but aren’t we reaching the usable limits of CAPTCHA if users can’t easily read them?

Permissions Oddity with the Customer Service Request Screen (SYCSL)

Yesterday I got a request from management to give full permissions to the SYCSL screen to one of my users. I of course complied, but then got a call the manager asking why the user did not have permission to change the status of the requests. I responded that she did and asked if she had re-started M2M for the rights to take effect.

Well, after looking more closely at the user permissions screen, I came across the following:


Notice the module below the screen.

This screen is non-standard in that its “Change Status” permission is assigned via the SYCSLS module. I seem to remember there being other exceptions to the rule as well.

Can you folks help me by naming any that you know of?

Pssst.... Over Here... (Auto Login)

There are a couple of ways to achieve automatic login of Made2Manage. However, I first want to say that I think this is a bad idea and I don’t allow this at my company for security reasons.

The simplest method is to make your M2M user name match your active directory user name. I haven’t done this in quite some time, but I do believe it still works. The problem with this was recently pointed out by one of my readers because his AD name is longer than what M2M allows for a user name. Therefore, he can’t auto login because they don’t match.

However, there is another alternative (that once again I don’t suggest) in this case. Navigate to your M2MWin.ini file and open it in Notepad. You can find it in your C:\windows\ directory. When you do so, you will notice a list of settings for M2M. Down the list you will find a section called [System]. Below that enter the following:

Username = User
Password = pass

Of course, you would substitute your user name and password for those entries and do not include quotes. This should allow you to log in to M2M on that computer automatically.

In my opinion, the only valid use of auto login is for computers that are in a locked room. A good example be an executive at your company who uses M2M infrequently and forgets his password.

What do you folks think? Do you know of other clever uses for the M2MWin.ini file?

Sales Order (SO) Screen Challenge

Your accounting manager comes to you with a problem. Being the stellar M2M Professional that you are, you immediately don your cape and tights. What? You don’t wear tights? Umm.. me neither… really…

Anyway, she explains to you that the terms, which are dictated by accounting, are being changed by some Sales Order Administrators that enter the orders. She can’t tell exactly why, but when this happens product is shipping out to companies who are on credit hold. This results in your company essentially giving away free product.


Your mission, should you choose to accept it.

Therefore, she asks you affect a couple of changes. First, she doesn’t want the terms to be changed at the SO level. You must stop this from happening. Second, she would prefer that the terms still be able to be seen on that screen, just not manipulated.

Now, I’m sure most of us can do it in one way or another. For the sake of this exercise, we’ll assume that you have all of the M2M Optional Modules, but you aren’t required to use any of them. I would like you folks to comment with a proposed way to accomplish this. I want to see how many ways we can come up with.

Also, each person can only list 2 total. That way, we don’t have the first person spoiling the “game” by listing every conceivable way in the first comment. Thinking for a few minutes, I’ve already come up with 6 different ways to achieve this myself.

So, without further adieu — are you up to the challenge?

FastForm Screen Exemptions

Yesterday I tried to customize the Sales Order Status/Cost (SOSTAT) Screen. I quickly realized that this screen is not available for FastForms customization. I called M2M for a list of screens incompatible with FastForms and was provided with the following change request. I figured my readers would benefit from this list as well.

Also, I think it’s interesting to note that the screens were originally included in the product to begin with and then removed afterward when they wouldn’t work.

I’d say it’s a safe bet that none of these screens will be added into FastForms since M2M is supposed to re-write their screens for Version 7. Anyone disagree?

CR ID: 112288
Summary: Remove screens from FastForms editor that cannot be extended properly
Entered By: dbryant
Create Date: 5/28/2004 1:08:29 PM
Part: ERP 5.51 FF B4
Release Target: ERP 5.51 FF B4
Object: FastForm
Group: ERP
details: Description: I have researched all of the screens which are currently in the FF Editor to determine if they can be extended using the FF Editor to add new data elements, apply them to the screen and save data to the fields. The attached spreadsheet indicates the screens I believe should be removed from the FF Editor due to data or design issues with the screen.

The list includes the following screens:


What version of Visual FoxPro are you using?

What version of Visual FoxPro are you using?

View Results

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Recently another user contacted me via e-mail to ask if they should upgrade to Visual FoxPro 9.0. They wondered if they really needed it because purchasing version 9.0 is not inexpensive (approximately $300 for the upgraded version and double that to license it outright).

I have been using VFP 6 for years and we never upgraded. As far as I know, there is only one area of Made2Manage which requires it and that is Form Customizer (FCUST). The later versions of M2M require you to use VFP 9.0 when using Form Customizer.

M2M used to instruct adminstrators to open M2M from within VFP when customizing their reports. However, they no longer do so because this process causes problems with security and permissions.

Does anyone know of a reason why you need to upgrade to VFP 9.0?

I Can Ride a Bike. Yay!!! That’s Great!

Special Ed

Special Ed from Crank Yankers

I’ve received a few e-mails asking where I’ve been lately. I got a killer virus and I finally had to wipe my primary machine and install all the necessary software. However, that’s not the primary reason I have been silent as of late.

Some of you know I’ve been riding my butt off lately. I joined a recreational team because I work and train with two of the members. Anyway, my coworker came to me and said that the leader would like to use my joining the team to get free stuff from sponsors like drink mix, gels you eat while riding, etc. I wasn’t really paying attention so I told her to do whatever she wanted; I am certainly willing to take free stuff. I later found out that I need to document my mileage to submit for this program. You see, they have me signed up as a “special needs” rider because of my weight. Yes folks, I am the bicycling equivalent of a Special Olympian. It doesn’t matter that I put more miles on the bike than any of them, this is how I’m labeled. So, when we go to rest stops, I act mentally challenged, say Durh! a lot, and miss my mouth with the water on purpose. What the heck, it gets laughs.

I decided that I needed some real bicycling jerseys to use on these group rides, so I didn’t look like a compete goober. However, they are difficult to find in my size because most serious bicyclists weigh 150 lbs. So, I ordered several jerseys along with a bunch of expensive bicycling equipment online and they arrived yesterday. None of the jerseys are sized consistently and the only one that remotely fit was bright red and at least a size too small. So, my team kept saying all day, “Hey Koolaid!!!”. Of course, in response I had to say, “Oh Yeah!!!” with a ridiculously low voice.

Kool Aid Man

Oh Yeah!!!

Anyway, I finished my first group ride in 3 years last week. We made it through 47 miles and I did pretty well. My muscles cramped a bit here and there, but the worst thing that happened was sunburn. In fact, I got up at 6am the next morning to take a 10 mile recovery ride on the bike. My weight is coming down and my stamina is going up. I can do anything.

Oh, and if you’re wondering if I still intend to do the Hotter Than Hell Century ride at the end of the summer the answer is…

Oh Yeah!!!!

Sales Order Revision Shenanigans

Have you ever wondered what happens when you reach 100 revisions of a Sales Order? No? Me neither, but it happened to us last week.

My current employer has long term contracts and the sales orders can stay open for 5 years or more. Items are added, changed, or removed all the time so 100 revisions isn’t as outlandish as it sounds.

Well, when you hit revision 100, the screen displays ** and that value is written to the database. There are no revisions after that.

Made2Manage created a Change Request for it, number 163578b and their workaround is to add and carry the sales order into a new one for a fresh set of revisions. However, there’s no way to actually tie the orders together so you lose your history anyway.

Oh well, you learn something new everyday.

“Reviewed” is not a Status.

I was in the process of waiting for M2M Tech Support to link my employer to yet another Change Request for me. When I received it, I noticed that the status said, Reviewed. What exactly does that mean? I know it means that they reviewed it, but does anyone care?

I asked the Tech what the real disposition was for the CR and he claimed not to know even though it was a few years old. I decided to browse other CR’s for the Sales Order (SO) screen and came across huge numbers of them. Many of them had other statuses such as Closed, Approved, Awaiting Approval, and Rejected.

For that matter, what does Closed mean? Awaiting Approval?

Just for fun, I looked back into the earliest CR’s and found several dating back as far as 1997 that were still in the Reviewed status.

Now, I know that M2M is not going to approve all of the change requests. However, in my opinion there should only be a few statuses. They would be something like Awaiting Review, Duplicate (for CR’s accidentally requested twice), Approved (and it should indicate a proposed release), and Rejected.

We know that the folks at Consona read this blog. Do any of you folks have other suggestions for the change request system?

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