Start With a Win!

My wife is currently studying to be a real estate agent with Re/Max so we’ve been discovering various real estate podcasts. Start With a Win, a podcast hosted by Re/Max CEO Adam Contos, is surprisingly NOT a real estate podcast. There’s a lot of interviews with business leaders in a variety of industries.

Every day you have a choice. You can wake up and choose to give in to mediocrity and complacency, you can choose bad habits and poor choices, and you can do the bare minimum to get by and fly under the radar. Or you can choose to make today the day that sets you apart from the crowd, you can choose to start doing the right things, the things that will set you up for success. You can choose to create a life that is worth living, worth waking up to, and worth sharing with the world around you. Today You can choose to start with a win.

Start With a Win podcast

The latest podcasts featured an interview with motivational speaker and “recovering lawyer” Bob Goff and former CIA Officer and FBI agent Tracy Walder. Adam concludes each interview by asking the guest what habits help them start each day with a win, which is often a good take-away.

This podcast may not be for everyone, but try listening to an episode and let me know what you think. It’s a useful diversion from analytics and cloud podcasts.

Start With a Win web site (includes podcast links)

Dallas Marks joins ThoughtSpot

I am pleased to announce that I have joined ThoughtSpot as a Customer Success Architect. The Customer Success team ensures that new ThoughtSpot customers get the assistance and mentoring they need for a successful deployment.

Is your organization eager to get faster insights from its cloud data warehouse? I hope you’ll sign up for a 30-day free trial of ThoughtSpot Cloud or request a 1:1 demo.

Resources for Microsoft Azure AZ-900 Certification

The Microsoft Azure AZ-900 certification is for “Azure Fundamentals”. Like the similar AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner that I earned recently, it is a stand-alone certification that isn’t a prerequisite to more advanced certification paths.

My personal opinion is that these certifications are still a worthwhile credential for any certification path. Their benefit is that you learn the vendor’s cloud terminology as well as the breadth of their cloud offerings. If you’re in IT management, you probably won’t be the one setting up cloud features. However, you should be the one asking if your organization is taking advantage of the vendor’s offerings around cloud security, governance, and budgeting.

Although my employer prefers AWS, the most hands-on time that I get is with Azure, so why not get certified while I am at it. Thankfully, because all three of the major cloud vendors (AWS, Azure, Google Cloud) are in a tight race for both market and mindshare, each has a lot of free training resources available.

Here are the resources that I’ve found helpful so far. For those of you who may have already obtained the AZ-900 certification, feel free to share additional resources in the comments section.

Free Resources

There are many free resources for Azure certification, including those available from Azure’s creator, Microsoft.

Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals

Microsoft’s training is both official and free. There are some videos, but its mostly a lot of browser-based reading with periodic quizzes. See the YouTube resource below if you’d like to be a certified couch potato.

A Cloud Guru

A Cloud Guru is a great site for AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform training. Sign up and the AZ-900 video class should be free (the hands-on labs are not, but hopefully you can practice at work). Visit the A Cloud Guru web site.

Adam Marczak – Azure for Everyone

There are so many YouTube resources related to certification that I haven’t had time to review them all, but I’ve really enjoyed Adam Marczak’s series for the AZ-900 exam.

Your access to YouTube might be blocked at the office, but I watch this playlist using my Apple TV at home. AZ-900 training is groken down into 34 shorter lessons, so it’s easy to spend 30 minutes or less per day absorbing the information.


There are many Azure-related podcasts. I recommend starting with those published by Microsoft then branching out.

Got a favorite? Share with my readers in the comments below.

Paid Resources

These resources require some cash but hopefully you can expense them with your employer.


Paid Udemy classes can cost as much as $99 but signing up for their email list then watching for sales, as courses are periodically marked down to $9.99 or $12.99. Visit the Udemy web site.

Packt Publishing

The quality of Packt’s materials can sometimes be hit or miss, but they ran a $5 ebook and video sale over Christmas. Some deals are just too good to pass up. Visit the Packt web site.

Microsoft Press Microsoft Azure Fundamentals, Exam Ref for AZ-900, Second Edition

Check out pricing on the Microsoft Press site and Amazon – sometimes Microsoft Press has discount codes. I have the first edition in print and like to read it with a highlighter. Note that I’m an Amazon affiliate and will earn a small commission if you use the link above.

Do you have any favorite Azure training resources? Let me know by adding a comment below.

Investigating Active Directory Users and their Groups

I’m not a Microsoft Windows administrator and I don’t play one on television, but sometimes I need the answer to when I last changed my Windows password, when it will expire, and which Active Directory (AD) groups I belong to.

Here is a command that describes an AD user. Open the Command Prompt app in Windows (either desktop or server) and enter the following:

C:\> net user [username] /domain

For example, to look up AD user dallasmarks type:

C:\> net user dallas.marks /domain

You can also investigate the current user using an environment variable:

C:\> net user %USERNAME% /domain

A potential drawback to the net user command is that long AD group names are truncated. To get around this, open up the PowerShell editor instead of the Command Prompt and type in the following:

PS C:\Windows\system32> Get-ADUser dallas.marks -property MemberOf | Select -ExpandProperty MemberOf

If the term ‘Get-ADUser’ is not recognized as the name of a cmdlet, function, script file, or operable program, you’ll need to install the RSAT (Remote Server Administration Tools) for Active Directory.

PS> Import-Module ServerManager
PS> Install-WindowsFeature -Name RSAT-AD-PowerShell

The output of Get-ADUser will list AD groups in canonical form.

What tricks do you use when working with AD users and groups?

AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner

My first (but definitely not last) AWS certification.

On Friday, December 18, 2020, I began a new chapter in my career by becoming an AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner. I’m a little embarrassed because I said that I was starting down this path over two years ago (see related blog post, Old Dogs, New Tricks).

The AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner is not a requirement on the path to becoming an AWS Certified Solutions Architect, SysOps Administrator, or Developer. It’s designed to demonstrate an understanding of AWS “in any role, including technical, managerial, sales, purchasing, or financial.” Obtaining this certification was a good way to ensure I understood AWS concepts in a way that I could explain to my customers, who are often not in traditional IT roles.

I’ve obtained my first AWS certification but I doubt that it will be my last. As I look at the available AWS Certifications, I’d like to obtain the associate AWS Certified Solutions Architect and the AWS Certified Data Analytics specialty certification. But in addition to study time, hands-on experience is a necessity. Right now, I’m getting a lot of hands-on time with Azure and there’s a possibility I’ll also be learning how to set up SAP BusinessObjects on the Google Cloud Platform. So who knows what the future holds?

In the meantime, you can watch as my certifications accumulate on my YourAcclaim profile.

How are you expanding your skill set beyond SAP BusinessObjects? Share your thoughts below.

Microsoft Edge Support for SAP BusinessObjects

According to the most recent Supported Platforms document for SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 SP8, last updated April 16, 2020, the platform supports the Microsoft Edge browser on the Windows 10 operating system.

But not only has Microsoft retooled it’s latest browser with Google Chromium innards, it has extended operating system support to Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, and even macOS. This means that most editions of Windows Server can now use Microsoft Edge instead of the creaky, old Microsoft Internet Explorer 11.

Improving Microsoft Edge support in the on-premise BI platform would give customers two excellent browser choices that also support SAP Analytics Cloud. Because Edge uses the same Chromium open-source technology as Google Chrome, adding addition editions of Microsoft Edge to the supported platforms document is hopefully more dependent on SAP’s ability to test all of the new editions of Edge and not a need to make software changes to extend compatibility.

I hope we’ll see broad Microsoft Edge support when SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.3 becomes available later this year. And as a bonus, I hope we’ll see improved Microsoft Edge support added to BI 4.2 SP8 via one of the patches to be released later this year.

Have you tried the new Microsoft Edge browser? Have you stopped using Microsoft Internet Explorer? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

​​Third-Party Connectors to Universes

The power of the BusinessObjects universe, the powerful semantic layer behind Web Intelligence and other SAP analytics tools, is unquestioned. As SAP BusinessObjects customers look beyond SAP for data visualization tools, a cottage industry of third-party vendors have sprung up to bring the power of the universe to non-SAP tools like Tableau, Qlik, and Microsoft Power BI.

UniverseBridge​ by Analytics8

no physical address listed on web site

Supports Tableau, Qlik, Microsoft Power BI, and ThoughtSpot.
Used by Nissan USA.

LiveConnect by Kobaltek

1-200 North Service Road, Suite 430
Oakville, Ontario L6M2Y1​

Formerly TableauConnect, the product now supports multiple analytics platforms including Tableau, SiSense, Microsoft Power BI, and Qlik.

​​​InfoBurst Tab by InfoSol

2340 W. Parkside Lane
Unit H 106
Phoenix, AZ 85027
623-707-7600 phone
623-707-7601 fax

InfoSol exhibited at the Tableau 2017 conference.

​ToreoData by WCI Consulting

WCI Consulting
8240 Preston Road
Suite 200
Plano, TX 75024

An ODBC connector that supports multiple non-SAP platforms.

This is only a list of available software packages and should not be considered an endorsement, either by me or my employer. Message me privately if you have additions or corrections to the list.

Is your organization using one of these solutions to extend universes to non-SAP tools? Share a comment below describing which tool you’re using, which analytics tools you’re connecting universes to, and any success stories or pitfalls.

Sheltering In Place

I’ve been fortunate to have spent the last eight years working from home (WFH) for EV Technologies. So for the most part, the past few weeks of sheltering in place have seemed almost normal. Except that my two school-aged children and my college freshman are now home school kids at least until the end of the school year. And the governor is on television with daily briefings.

The internet is holding up, mostly. I’ve only had to call Spectrum, my internet service provider, once. But I’ve had to reboot my router more frequently, either as a result of my own children’s internet usage or the rest of the children in the neighborhood.

I don’t have any special wisdom for COVID-19 at this time, but I do have a modest request. Many of you are sheltering in place and shopping online. Would you consider making your Amazon visits via links on my web site which help support this blog? Thankfully Amazon carries toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and just about anything else you might need to shelter at home in comfort and style.

We’re in this together!
Socially Distant Dallas

Apollo 11 and First Man

If you think sheltering in-place with your family is difficult, imagine spending nine days in a broom closet-sized hydrogen-powered death trap with two co-workers. July 2019 was the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11, so it is only fitting that filmmakers have recently given the subject a fresh look.

Apollo 11 is a documentary made from high-resolution 70mm film footage that was recently discovered. There is no narration, other than audio from the actual mission. And an excellent moody soundtrack from Matt Morton. The quality of the digitally scanned film is stunning – the mission looks like it took place yesterday, not 50 years ago. As of this writing, Apollo 11 is currently streaming on Hulu and you might be able to catch it in IMAX once science museums are reopened from the COVID-19 pandemic.

First Man is a film directed by Damien Chazelle and stars Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong and Claire Foy as his wife, Janet Armstrong. The film delves into the human side of the first man to step foot on the moon and his family. It begins with Neil’s career as a test pilot flying the X-15 rocket plane through the historic moon mission. When the film was released, there was a lot of media criticism that the movie wasn’t “patriotic” enough because the camera did not linger long enough on the American flag planted on the moon. Alas, I can assure you that the flag is actually included in the film. As an American, I found the film incredibly patriotic and not some kind of exercise in political correctness. But the goals of the Apollo 11 mission were much larger than an exercise of American patriotism. A plaque mounted on the lunar lander reads:

“Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon July 1969, A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

And the goals of the filmmakers were larger than simply making a documentary. For most of us, our careers aren’t a matter of life and death. But I think most fathers will relate to Neil Armstrong’s attempts to balance career and family. The standout performance of this film is Claire Foy’s portrayal of Janet Armstrong, Neil’s first wife. Claire Foy, of course, is the Golden Globe winning actress for her performance as the young Queen Elizabeth II in the Netflix series, The Crown (also worth putting in your Netflix queue).

As an aside, there is a second connection between The Crown and the Apollo 11 mission. In Season 3, Episode 7 entitled “Moondust”, the Apollo 11 crew visits Buckingham Palace as part of their world tour. Although an older Queen Elizabeth is played by Olivia Colman and not Claire Foy, the episode provides an interesting slant on the Apollo 11 story as it juxtaposes the historic moon landing with Prince Phillip’s midlife crisis and search for significance.

Apollo 11 is suitable for the entire family. First Man, rated PG-13 in the USA, is a bit intense for younger viewers but still an excellent candidate for family movie night.

Book Review: SAP HANA 2.0, an Introduction

SAP HANA 2.0, an Introduction [ISBN 978-1-4932-1838-7 (print), 978-1-4932-1839-4 (e-book), 978-1-4932-1840-0 (print and e-book)], by Denys van Kempen provides a complete and well-organized view of the SAP HANA platform. First launched as an in-memory database in 2010, HANA is nearly a teenager and has made lots of changes over the past decade. I was surprised while reading the book at how much of my HANA product knowledge was obsolete, mostly due to the way SAP has a way of renaming and retiring products as well as introducing new ones.

After presenting a thorough technical overview in Chapters 1 & 2, the author devotes seven chapters to unique personas that will interact with the HANA platform: administration, application development, advanced analytics, security, data integration, data architecture, and data center architecture. While it’s entirely possible that you, like me, will be required to function as more than one persona, it’s unlikely that your organization will be successful with SAP HANA if only one person is expected to be all seven personas.

The author says it best:

“Using personas [to organize the book] also safeguards against the constant change inherent in the software industry. By the time this book is in the online store, new features will have been added, product names may have been changed (again), and older components may no longer be supported. What’s unlikely to change any time soon, however, are the roles of developers and administrators.”

Denys van Kempen, SAP HANA 2.0: An Introduction

Regardless of your role using the SAP HANA platform, this book provides a solid introduction to the platform as a whole and illuminates what topics you should master based on your persona. As for me, I am both a hands-on practitioner as well as a manager of other, better-qualified hands-on practitioners. Having an understanding of the full platform as well as the key responsibilities of each persona is going to be invaluable to me making HANA a success for organizations that rely on it.

There are over 10,000 freely-available pages of HANA documentation available from SAP. So you might ask yourself why do you need a book if there’s so much free information? This book and its author provide an experienced guide – somebody who can keep you safely on the right trail and out of pitfalls as you climb the HANA mountain.

The book concludes with a chapter on Training and Support. As you would expect from a now 10-year-old platform, there are many free and paid options to get your team the education they need to be effective.

If you’re in IT management, this may be the only book about HANA that you’ll need to read. I guarantee you’ll be asking your team hard questions after reading to insure the HANA platform is managed well in your organization. For serious HANA practitioners such as administrators or developers, this won’t be your last HANA book. But it should definitely be the first.

I especially recommend the ebook or hardcover/ebook combination. Whether you read the book on Adobe Reader, Kindle, or a tablet, you’ll be able to utilize your device’s search functionality to quickly refresh your memory.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”