Posts by Kenneth Igiri

Leaders Listen, Rulers Talk

I recently listened in passing to a commentary about leadership that struck me. While not just referring to those in leadership positions, the speaker stated that real leaders have a habit of listening to those they are leading. Listening is a valuable character trait of natural leaders. Change is inevitable in government whatever the reasons for such changes could be. We should expect changes and often when such changes come from leadership, it is indeed possible that they are necessary considering the fact that leaders see a much bigger picture than followers or at least they are expected to see a much bigger picture.

In recent years there have been a few changes in our beloved Nigeria that people generally question. Late last year there was a whole lot of clamour about the fuel subsidy removal up until the bold announcement on its implementation in early January 2012. The reaction to the announcement was as expected generally not favourable. In Lagos state in particular there was also the long debate about toll gates built along Lekki-Epe express. Interest groups protests were met with counter-protests, alleged arrests and finally, the toll gates now stand declaring victory for the state government on the matter.

Recently there has also been talk of introduction of new naira denominations that could make it easier to handle cash in banks (as well as in drug cartels, armed robbery gangs, smuggling gangs and so on). A lot of people are of the opinion that this could lead to inflation and further devaluation of our currency. The possible introduction of ‘coins of large value’ also brings in a certain degree of complexity to the situation.

While one side or the other may never be completely correct since the full effects of some of these decisions only unfold in the long run, what we want to point out here is the fact that leadership in Nigeria has to show very clearly that the opinions of the people, the masses not just the elite, matter in government’s decisions. Without that, the average citizen’s sense of belonging and commitment to the development of Nigeria will keep tunnelling downwards. Each person needs to know that his opinion matters.

Listening to people who have a different viewpoint, people who are not sitting in the same aloof-from-reality towers as you are often helps you review your thoughts as a leader if you are sincere about sustainable development. We do appreciate the depth of experience and intellectual prowess exhibited by the young, dynamic and adept officials in government but I do think that we still need to move from ruling to leading in our practice of governance. Listening is key to leading.

This post was originally published in September, 2012

Intimacy

Intimacy is an intrusion into your lonely lifestyle, a bold invasion of your privacy often with your consent. It just happens to be a very pleasant invasion … most of the time. Intimacy happens when you cross paths with another species of being and find that your numerous plugs fit into their numerous sockets… at least most of them. Intimacy happens when you open up your sockets and extend you plugs to exchange soul by giving and receiving.

Intimacy is an invasion. There are no more gates with this significant other. There are no more barriers. There is so much discomfort in tearing down these barriers and when they are down… they are down. The army raids your inward parts and nothing is hidden anymore. Whatever was in the dark is completely exposed. The fragile emotions, the unseemly habits, the lousy flaws covered in cosmetics in public places. Everything is exposed!

Intimacy is an intrusion. At the beginning it is unpleasant to give in. But when the bombardment becomes unbearable, the walls begin to fall. They crack at first, it hurts yet is thrilling. Why does the thrill hurt so much? Because stone walls are crumbling under heavy fire. The women of the city are on rampage. There is chaos in the inward parts. The boundaries are no longer relevant.

Intimacy is an invasion. Looting is lawful because everything is shared. Nothing is private anymore when two become one. The concept of private property has no meaning in this realm. The other one becomes a disturbance that you cannot live without, a massive cedar tree growing in the centre of your bedroom. Things get missing, personal effects are moved, and permissions are granted without being requested. Everything is shared.

Intimacy is liberation when two become one; that is how we are designed. Intimacy is a relief because that is what we long for. Intimacy is a pedestal which we all reach for so long as we have the capacity to feel. Intimacy is a challenge we find fulfilling to surmount.  Intimacy is a trap we would gladly walk into over and over again because we would rather be bound by love than be lost in loneliness.

Intimacy is a seed that can grow for a lifetime. Intimacy is a weed that can become beautiful when nurtured or else entangled to the point of choking itself when left untendered. Intimacy is an experience so sacred and priceless, so profound and engaging, so complex and intricate that it can only be shared with one other at any point in time during a lifetime.

Intimacy is a treasure often so hard to find and so easy to lose that we must depend on neither logic nor appearance to grasp its deepest meaning. A concept so deep that we must spend a lifetime discovering is infinite layers and facets. It is a maze so intricate that we must pay attention to the tiniest detail to preserve it in its finest form. Intimacy … we could go on and on forever and we will.

This article was originally published in July 2012

Angels and Demons

I met a forty-something year old man on my way from work yesterday. I was just a few blocks from my office. He greeted and I responded as nicely as I could, I mean, this is Ghana not Nigeria isn’t it? Well he then asked me where I was going. What?!!! Excuse, me? As in? You know! But why? I repeated his question, adding a second question mark in my tone so he would know I was actually asking “Why are you asking where I am going?” He then mentioned that I work at my workplace and I acknowledged and asked whether he worked there too but he said he just sees me around. Oooopsss! This is a security issue.

After a few seconds I kept moving and I began to recall that he looked quite like a certain man I had given one cedi a week or two previously.  Ouch! I began wondering whether I had exposed myself. Well, he had asked for small money for water and I took pity wondering what would make a full grown man lie down on a pavement and ask for water from passers-by. Suspicious!

A few thoughts on this: this able-bodied man recognizes me, knows where I work and wanted to know where I was going. He also knew I was capable of sparing one cedi for a stranger at least. Hmmm. He may have even been trying to find out when I close from work. Of course, he would have failed woefully at that one. He would need several algebraic equations, (simultaneous at that) to find out.

The short experiences raises questions about how a little help offered can seem to backfire so hard that rather than entertaining angels in our attempt to help, some people end up encountering demon-like entities. There are stories of those who got hypnotized and kidnapped in their attempt to respond to someone asking for directions; swindled by those they lent money to, or pick-pocketed while trying to stop a fight! . Sad experience for such people.

Well, I guess we all have to act  wisely in our dealings so we don’t expose ourselves to demon-like strangers not forgetting that ‘angels’ are still out there who really need help. Sure, we cannot let these impostors rob us of the joy of meeting angels, can we?

This post was originally published in November 2012

Five SQL Server Management Practices

This article outlines five native SQL Server capabilities you can use to enhance your efficiency as a DBA. It was originally published on SQL Server Central

As organisations seek more cost efficient ways to manage their environments, the demand on IT to deliver and manage shops on a tighter budget is increasing. The typical IT person must think not just about what must be done but how it must be done not only with the least administrative effort but with the least financial cost.

Administrative effort indirectly contributes to financial cost when such factors such as time spent on performing tasks and resources employed in performing such administrative tasks are considered. In this article I have outlined a few areas where DBAs working in moderately sized environments can capitalise on to manage their environments more efficiently and more cost effectively.

1. Use Windows Authentication

SQL Server provides two main authentication modes: mixed mode and Windows Authenticaton. In mixed mode authentication, logins can be created within SQL Server. SQL Server does the authentication and the user must provide both a username and a password when connecting to the instance. Windows logins can also be used.


Windows Authentication mode allows SQL Server to trust a credentials that have already been authenticated by Windows. This credential could be a local OS account or an Active Directory domain account. Typically when using Windows Authentication in a connection string you specify –T (for trust) or the option ‘Integrated Security=true’ (see https://www.connectionstrings.com/ for more details on this). Some developers are typically averse to taking the trouble to use Windows Authentication probably because it appears more straightforward to simply specify a username and password in the connection string.


Windows Authentication has the following advantages:


Much More Secure – Windows Authentication is more secure because a series of encrypted messages are used in the authentication process. When using Windows Authentication mode, SQL Server supports Kerberos through the Windows Security Support Provider Interface (SSPI). It is also worth noting that when you do use SQL Server Logins, passwords are transmitted across the network exposing them to sniffing.


Easier to Manage – In an environment where users every now and then request a password reset or lock their accounts, using Windows Authentication takes the load of trivial tasks such as unlocking account and resetting passwords off the DBA.


Easier for Compliance – Many industry standards such as PCI-DSS demand basic practices such as password expiry, password complexity specifications and so on. Although this can be enabled on SQL Logins with the CHECK_POLICY=ON option, this is done per login. Using Windows Authentication ensures compliance requirements are handled by Windows not SQL Server which is much more efficient.

Easier for Access Management – When you need to manage a variety of departments who access SQL Server directly it will pay to handle access to the SQL Instance as follows:

  • Create Windows Security Groups in Active Directory for each Department
  • Grant the Windows Security Group Access to the SQL Instance
  • Grant the Windows Groups the required privileges (through roles) on SQL Server
  • When a new staff joins a particular depart, add him/her to the group on AD
  • When a staff leaves the department remove him from the group on AD
  • When a staff leave the organisation, remove him from ALL groups on AD

I think the above approach or any variant is much easier than handling individual principals at SQL Server level. In addition, it can help pass Access Management to a non-DBA function entirely who will not need to access SQL Server frequently to do their job.

Fig 1. SQL Server Authentication Modes


2. Use Central Management Servers


Central Management Servers (available since SQL Server 2008) allow you to designate an instance as a management server and subsequently add the connection information for other instances as Registered Servers to that instance. You can group Registered servers as you like and run queries on them as groups.
One good example of the usefulness of this utility is documenting your instances (assuming you are not using more advanced methods). You can run one simple query on your Registered Server Group and get output across instances as shown in Fig 2.

Fig 2. Extracting Instance Information Across Instances


Fig 3 also shows how Central Management Servers can be used to perform adhoc maintenance tasks across instances. In Fig 4 we create an account across multiple instance and grant a role to this login within each database of each of the instances we loop through. You will find this useful if you, for example, want to create an account for monitoring or auditing purposes when using third party tools that must connect to the instance.

Fig 3. Updating Statistics Across Instances
Fig 4. Create a Monitoring Login Across Instances


It is worth noting that when working in an environment where your database servers are behind firewalls, you should ensure that port 1433 (or any other port you have configured your instances to listen on) is open between the Central Management Server and the Registered Servers. The credentials you use to connect from the Central Management Server should have the required accesses on the Registered Servers.

3. Use a Quorum Share Server

In my experience building SQL Server failover clusters, I have always been more inclined to use Node and Disk Majority Quorum configuration simply because that is what I am used to. With the advent of AlwaysOn Availability Groups, we find that quorum configuration options are limited to Node Majority and Node and Fileshare majority.
When configuring AlwaysOn Availability Groups, It will be useful to designate a single low-spec server as your ‘Quorum Share Server’. Create a number of shares on this server and grant permissions on the share to each clusters you install in your environment. You can manage and safeguard this single server from unintended reboots. You can take control of it as the DBA rather than for example depending on a share sitting on a Domain Controller.

4. Take Backups to a Share

For those who do not use or cannot afford enterprise backup solutions, one would often notice DBAs taking backups to a disk on the same server where the SQL instance is sitting. This is to say the least, RISKY. That means risky in UPPER case. It is even more risky if you are not using a SAN.
When in this situation, it would be a good idea to setup a share on a File Share server and grant permissions to the share to the SQL Server Service accounts across your enterprise. When configuring your backup jobs, simply use the share as your backup location. Below is a sample script:

-- Listing 1: Backup ALl Databases to a Share Excluding TempDB and Model
exec sp_MSforeachdb @command1='
DECLARE @backup sysname
SET @backup=N''\10.1.119.45\Backup\?''+convert(nvarchar,getdate(),112)+N''.bak''
USE [?]
IF ''?'' NOT IN ("tempdb","model")
BACKUP DATABASE ? TO DISK = @backup WITH INIT , NOUNLOAD ,
NAME = N''?'', NOSKIP , NOFORMAT'
-- Listing 2: Backup ALL Databases to a Share Excluding TempDB and Model if there has Been No Backup in the Last 24 Hours
exec sp_msforeachdb @command1='
USE ?
DECLARE @backup sysname
DECLARE @db sysname
SET @backup=N''\10.1.119.45\POST_BKP\'' + DB_NAME() + ''_'' + convert(nvarchar,getdate(),112)+N''.bak''
SET @db = DB_NAME()
IF NOT EXISTS (
select bus.database_name, bus.backup_start_date, bus.backup_finish_date,
(((DATEPART(HH,bus.backup_finish_date))- (DATEPART(HH,bus.backup_start_date)))3600) + (((DATEPART(MI,bus.backup_finish_date)) - (DATEPART(MI,bus.backup_start_date)))60) +
(((DATEPART(SS,bus.backup_finish_date)) - DATEPART(SS,bus.backup_start_date))) [backup_time (secs)], bus.backup_size,
bmf.physical_device_name
from msdb..backupset bus
join msdb..backupmediafamily bmf on bus.media_set_id=bmf.media_set_id
where bus.backup_start_date >= (getdate() - 1)
and bus.database_name=''?'')
IF ''?'' NOT IN ("tempdb")
BEGIN
BACKUP DATABASE ? TO DISK = @backup
WITH INIT , NOUNLOAD ,
NAME = N''?_Backup'', NOSKIP , STATS = 10, NOFORMAT
END'

5. Use Operators and Alerts

Operators are aliases for a group of people who receive alerts from a SQL Server instance. Alerts can be triggered by server conditions as well as jobs. When an alert is raised and Database Mail has been configured correctly, the alert is fired as an email to the Operators defined and mapped to the specific alert. Using Operators and Alerts can replace the need for a third party monitoring tool assuming your shop is not too large and you wish to save some money on monitoring. With details planning, standardization Operators and Alerts can go a very long way in meeting monitoring requirements.

Conclusion

SQL Server ships with a wide variety of in-built features that can be harnessed creatively to cut down your financial and administrative costs significantly. This article simply points out a few key areas which will be useful especially to not-so-large organisations.

References


https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb669066(v=vs.110).aspx
https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc280744(v=sql.105).aspx
https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc780469(v=ws.10).aspx
https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh831472(v=ws.11).aspx
https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc280745(v=sql.105).aspx
https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb934126.aspx
https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb895144.aspx
https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh270278.aspx
https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh270280.aspx
https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms179336.aspx

10 Strategies for Keeping Your Wife’s Mind on You

When I wrote on marriage in the book Till Death I learnt a few new things about cars, medicine, writing itself and of course relationships. Back then, my Senior Partner and I came up with a few tips that could help married men resonate constantly in their wife’s minds.

After going through these tips, I would be glad if you provide feedback on the results of practising just two out of the ten tips over a period of time. Also, you could add tips from your own experience as comments. So here we go:

1. Send a very special SMS or IM everyday whenever you are away. Sample:

‘Someone got me really upset today then he wondered why I just smiled. I smiled ‘cos at that very moment, I thought about u’

2. Spend thirty minutes every day talking to her exclusively. Turn off the TV, your phones, your computer and just talk with her.

3. Have her pose and take pictures of her every weekend. Take pictures of her when she is asleep and surprise her with them.  

4. Do the cooking, house chores or take care of the baby all by yourself and let her do whatever she wants every two weeks.

5. Take her out to dinner, a park, the beach, the movies or wherever at least once a month.

6. Buy her a small gift every month. On special occasions – birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas – buy her a big gift.

7. Visit her at her office once in a while unannounced. Let her colleagues know you.

8. Take her on a trip out of town at least once a year. Depending on where you are going, vary the modes of transport.

9. Describe a part of her body in detail to her once in a while. You can recite it like a poem, write it and send it in the mail or capture it on a camcorder.

10. Confess your commitment to her in a spiritual atmosphere and let her reciprocate. Sample:

‘You belong to me and I belong to you. You are pleasing to me and sufficient for me. I will never desire another. Our souls are bound by a blood covenant in God the Father. Till Death do us part’.

This post was first published in July, 2011

If I Were to Live Again

I was born in a village andthe first language I spoke was Igbo. I faintly remember the encounter I hadwith a fellow two or three-year-old in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. We were examininga little pond. I guess I was fascinated with the fact that I could see myreflection in the water, and his too. I made certain comment about the water inIgbo which I am not sure whether he understood, one thing I was very sure ofwas that I did not understand whatever it was he said in English when heresponded. I do not even remember what he said today but I remember I felt outof place when I could not understand him. I remember another incident in myearly life. I am sure I could have been about four years old when I heard thefirst song I remember hearing: Madonna’s LaIsta Bonita (The Beautiful Island). Till date every time I hear that somesomewhere, I remember the blue lights that lit up the hall in that remote villageof the then Imo State called AmaiyiIgbere. My father was well known, generous and used to host a lot ofparties replete with food and drinks. Incidentally, it was at one of thoseparties in 1986 where I had my first taste of beer at age seven: a mix ofleft-overs from several bottles of Gulder, Star and the likes.

A child’s earliest experiences have a huge impact on the outcome of his or her life even if he doesn’t consciously remember those experiences. I believe that some experiences of our childhood stick with us so deep that even if we do not remember them consciously, they lie hidden deep in our subconscious and subtly contribute to our patterns of thinking. While it is safe to say that most of us have these scripts written in our subconscious inadvertently, as parent, we can take advantage of these realities and attempt to deliberately shape the thinking of our children right from childhood by regulating the things they are exposed to.

I once saw a picture of my childhood when I was about two years old. I was fiddling with the record player looking very serious. My Mom told me I tended to find some electronic device to play around with at every opportunity. She also told me I always found a way to open our bedroom window from the first floor of our house in the village until my Dad secured it with binding wire. That is the nature of every new born: always exploring.

(Excerpts from my next book)

Entangled – A Review by Joseph Otoo

A Touch of Class

There is an immediate practical and vivid connection to this book for the working class, unmarried young man; even for the married, perhaps it’s a déjà vu!


To be honest I appreciated the usefulness of this book only upon reading it a 2nd time, and I wondered where my thoughts were when I read it the 1st time. There is a certain clarity, realism and actuality that Ken wrote with each line of this story, that provokes thoughts of the reader to a point of subconsciously assuming the roles played. And not many a writer often combine these and achieve the level of impact on its readers. He has been brilliant in that regard.


In general Kenneth could not have been more precise and incisive with this story-line. There is a directness in the way each line punches the truth barrier. The paragraphs of each leaflet is a vicious play of the greed and pleasures of man that often tramples our senses of reasoning. We see a writer who has carefully arranged the story-line to whet the appetites of his readers like series and seasons of movies which make you want to watch the next episode…and the next. You could not wait to read the next chapter
How remarkable, that in the end, Ken vividly tells us, so brutally that you can make life that simple for yourself and those around you – regardless of what you have or do not have. And I found it personally from pages 202 onward!


Personally, I found a few key lessons:


A. A man in particular must – not should – be able to make and take a decision, and stick to that decision and deal with the consequences thereof. We have the opportunity of hindsight – albeit not always – and hence can approximate. In truth we cannot expect every decision to be right with little or no knock-off effects, but in our solitude we should smile within if it ends up based on what we decided and do not let it get so much into our heads. We should also take it on the chin if it goes bad, regret a little and attempt to make it right in a bid to turn things around if it is within our purview.


B. You cannot eat your cake and have it. It is that simple. We cannot consciously take certain decisions in life knowing very well their repercussions, and yet when they do we act so pious as though we are whiter than Jesus’ cloth during one of His transfiguration! What goes around comes around!


C. A Novelist of a book I once read said…. “Character is doing what is right when none is watching; Virtue is keeping.” Entangled reiterates this statement essentially! Character has something to do with one’s way of thinking which comes with maturity. Maturity is a state of mental capacity… it is not age; well, not just! Marriage, does not and cannot necessarily change you for the better;


D. We have never done anything by our own might – but the Grace of God! Give credit where it is due. The earlier we accept it the better. Why? Because “iniquity” is found in us (page 205, Miss Botchway speaking). You must not be a Christian sacrosanct to realize this.


A great book by all standards – and I am looking forward to the movie version also – because I wish to partake in the acting!
Kenneth Igiri is indeed a writer!

Say No to Phones

A few days ago at the close of work about five of us were standing by the lift waiting. I suddenly noticed every single person was looking in their phones. It happened again this morning by the lift. WhatsApp it appeared in this case. It occurred to me that the implications of how our social lives have been altered by technology. It is easier to communicate with someone far away whom we cannot see than to notice someone standing right next to us in a public place.

Are we hiding something behind our mobile phone screens? Have we lost the capacity to look another person in the eye? How will our children fit in socially once they are raised with this everyone-to-his-phone culture? In the first occurrence I described, I was so taken aback by the realization that I put my phone in my pocket immediately. It is like a disease that has caught everyone: Phonephilia! It is spreading fast.

I think it would be a healthy habit to deliberately ignore our mobile phones for hours during the day and do more rewarding things like talking with a colleague face to face, focusing on a book or article and even concentrating on our work. There are so many aspects of life that phones and Social Media generally may be taking away from us and we have to fight back for ourselves and for our children. Say “NO” to Phonephilia.

Extract DDL in MySQL

Working with Oracle and SQL Server I have become used to not-so-simple statements or procedures for extracting the structure of database objects. In order to extract the DDL for a database object, one would typically use a third party tool such as SQL Navigator or Toad. An alternative for more advanced DBAs would be to use DBMS_METADATA.GET_DDL. In SQL Server either you script the object from SQL Server Management Studio or you use sp_helptext for procedures for example.

Fig. 1 DBMS_METADATA.GET_DDL in Oracle
Fig. 2 sp_helptext in MS SQL Server

There is actually a very interesting way this is done in MySQL. It is a very simple SHOW command that is quite easy to remember and extend:

SHOW CREATE TABLE <TABLENAME>

I found this particularly interesting because once you know the basic syntax, it become almost intuitive. Other commands exist such as the following to display on indexes on a table :

SHOW INDEX FROM <TABLE_NAME>

I am sure you may already be familiar with SHOW DATABASE, SHOW TABLES, SHOW PROCESSLIST, SHOW PRIVILEGES etc. A full list of MySQL’s SHOW commands can be found here.  

Who Do I Prefer to Hurt?

Early this morning on the way to church we got to a traffic light and I was once again reminded of a dilemma that often occurs to me. Right in front of me I notice a taxi driver and another church member asking another drivers on the inner to allow them in. In strict terms of the law, the person on the inner lane should not let them in but we have to be nice on the motorways don’t we. So we keep letting one or two cars in even when they are wrong in their approach. The dilemma I mentioned earlier is if I have a queue of four cars behind me and I keep letting people in front of me in the name of being nice, I am also delaying those behind me while helping those that chose t cut corners. There is a parallel o this in the workplace.

It is said that a team is a strong as it’s weakest link. Some people are too weak technically to be in certain kinds of technical teams and tend to embarrass the team whenever a task is left in their hands. Maybe they are not suited for the role or they have not been trained sufficiently or they have other problems interfering with their work. Whatever the case is, the team suffers their weakness. But they have families who depend on their income. On the part of the manager whose job it is to determine who gets fired, he has to balance between his sympathy for the weak link and sympathy for the bleeding team.

I think it is only fair to reassign the weak link in some way so as not the jeopardize the careers of the rest of the team. It is a hard decision but that is part of what being a manager is about: taking hard decisions.