Rob Farley

Rob Rob Farley has been consulting in IT since completing a Computer Science degree with first class honours in 1997. Before moving to Adelaide, he worked in consultancies in Melbourne and London. He runs the development department in one of Australia's leading IT firms, as well as doing database application consultancy and training. He heads up the Adelaide SQL Server User Group, and holds several Microsoft certifications.

Rob has been involved with Microsoft technologies for most of his career, but has also done significant work with Oracle and Unix systems. His preferred database is SQL Server and his preferred language is C#. Recently he has been involved with Microsoft Learning in the US, creating and reviewing new content for the next generation of Microsoft exams.

Over the years, Rob's clients have included BP Oil, OneLink Transit, Accenture, Avanade, Australian Electorial Commission, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the Royal Borough of Kingston, Help The Aged, Unisys, Department of Treasury and Finance (Vic), National Mutual, the Bible Society and others.

Did you mean to come here? My blog is now at

31 August 2006


Michael posted a comment on my post about the ACS membership. He referred to Scott Hanselman's post about how useless that kind of thing is. I figure I should make a couple of things clear.

I certainly don't chase having letters after my name. If I did, I'd be joining every professional society I could. I don't ever write my name with the full set of letters at the end. It's not even on my business cards. I'm happy to refer people to my MCP Transcript, and I wish that my uni transcript was available online (it would save me feeling like I needed have a copy available).

But having said that, I do think that people need to find ways of differentiating themselves from the crowd. For Scott, I'm sure he could call himself all kinds of things to let people know that he knows his stuff. For people who are MS-MVPs, they tend to put that after their name on newsgroups, etc. It gives them a bit of credibility perhaps.

Am I proud to have uni degrees, MS Certs, and ACS membership? Sure. Do I want to flaunt them? Nah, not really. They're useful for potential employers or clients, but that's about it. If I had a PhD, I wouldn't call myself "Dr" much - I don't see the point. But if I were a pastor in my church, I'd happily call myself "Pr Rob", because that helps people understand that they are welcome to talk to me about stuff outside the standard IT stuff that people ask me. Adam Cogan says he'd like to be "Mountaineer Adam". I assume he's not serious, but it's how he sees himself. I'm all for that.

If you see your degree as defining who you are, then put your degree after your name. If you see your MS Certs as defining you, then put them. If there's something else that you think defines you better, then put that too.

But you can just call me Rob. It means 'to steal'.

28 August 2006

Putting the user back into software

TechEd was last week - but you knew that, right? The 'theme' was about the user. Tech.You was the logo. I got a shirt with 'Tech.Rob' on the sleeve. My name card said 'Tech.Rob' too. The keynote speaker was an anthropologist called Anne Kirah. She talked about the importance of having software that makes a difference to people's lives. Ron Jacobs delivered one of the first talks of the conference, and he also talked about bridging the gap between the computer and the person through user-centric applications.

On Sunday, I got asked to speak at church on short notice. I talked about how I'd just spent the week at TechEd, how Microsoft (regardless of how it seems) is trying to make software that makes a difference in people's lives (and not just people who want to edit spreadsheets), and how there's a similarity between that and what the church does. Most people look at the church as being very good at 'doing church', and meeting the needs of people who are 'church people'. But largely, they see the church as being out-of-touch with what people want. The thing is that God (like the powers that be at Microsoft perhaps?) wants to actually make a difference in people's lives.

Unfortunately, most people see the church when they look for God, and non-user-friendly applications when they look for Microsoft.

Rob Farley, SMACS

No, that's not a verb. Just more letters after my name.

I finally let myself be persuaded to join the ACS. On joining, I noticed that I ought to qualify for Senior Membership, so after a brief meeting in Sydney, now I can use SMACS after my name. I figure that the 'S' helps differentiate it from all the MS Certs I have.

11 August 2006

Premier League Tipping

Come on Frank, you know you want to... for score-tipping. for fantasy team.

If you want to be included in mini-leagues, let me know and I'll give you codes to join. :)

10 August 2006

Don't want your mobile to connect to GPRS all the time?

I've found this seems to be a common issue...

When someone's on Windows Mobile (either 2003 or 5.0), they're happily disconnected, but then they open something that wants an internet connection. Suddenly they see a "connecting to GPRS" box, and they freak out because they don't want to pay the GPRS prices for downloads.

Here's how to avoid it.

Go into Settings. Connections tab, Connections icon (use the links for images - apologies to the people who are hosting them!). Then go to the Advanced tab, where there are three buttons. Pick "Select Networks". Then change the "Programs that automatically connect..." boxes to something other than GPRS.

You can still connect to GPRS by going into the Wireless Manager and turning it on. But now your phone won't use GPRS unless you specifically tell it to. Which should keep your mind at ease.

Tag-team user group meeting

Today we had a user group meeting which consisted of six speakers, all giving 5-10 minutes on some SQL-related topic. Plus I gave a few small tips while people were swapping video cables and things like that.

It worked really well! Numbers were down, but I think everyone that came had a really fun time. The speakers were... Keith Zerna, Alex Sims, Roger Noble, Peter Kennedy, Dave Gardiner and Martin Cairney. Roger took the giveaway for his demonstration of SQL Prompt.

Some of the talks could easily have become full-length talks (some nearly did!), which gives me a lot of hope for 1/ using this format again, and 2/ finding speakers when I'm short of ideas.

09 August 2006


Mitch has persuaded me to use feedburner for my RSS feed. So feel free to change your subscription to if you want. The old one will keep working of course.

07 August 2006

SQL Code Camp

October 7 and 8 this year places me in Wagga Wagga for the SQL Code Camp. You'll notice my name in the speaker list. I'm going to talk about row_number(), and other uses of the windowing features. It's called windowing and ranking functions, but I've had a couple of people ask me what a windowing function is. No... there's windowing, and there's ranking functions. row_number() is a ranking function, which uses the windowing feature of the OVER clause.

So anyway, here's my abstract:

SQL2005 introduces the OVER clause to T-SQL, and with it, ranking functions and windowing. Ranking functions, particularly the row_number() function, give database developers a lot more flexibility to solve many problems. And the windowing features of the OVER clause not only allow new solutions to old problems, but can allow a much higher level of query-optimisation than before. In this session, some of the uses of this new functionality will be explored - demonstrating some of the ways in which problems can be solved more easily and efficiently.

If you're interested in this type of thing, grab me on MSN Msgr and ask me some more... or else come to Wagga!

04 August 2006

More on the reading and listening thing

Reflecting on the reading and listening rant of my last post, I've decided that I need to frequent my local library more often. And I also need to work at getting a library system worked out for the user-group I run.

The thing with libraries is that you can't borrow books forever. So you tend to make the time to read them before you have to take them back. Let's say you borrow a book for a month. The first three weeks, it's sitting somewhere in the house, waiting for you to read it. After about three weeks, you notice the book, and you think "Ooh, that book hasn't moved. I should check when it's due back." Turns out it's due in a week's time, and you think "Hmm... that's about 150 pages a day I have to get through if I'm going to read it. I should make a start..." So you read a few pages, and you realise the book is definitely worth reading, and you somehow find an hour or two a day to get it done.

It's a deadline thing. Without deadlines, procrastination can win out. Actually, procrastination isn't the right word. It's more than without deadlines, things can get deprioritised - even if they're quite important. Covey would argue that this is because people live in the "Urgent" quadrants rather than the "Important but not urgent" quadrant. I'm not so big on Covey, but I understand the principle. As I run out of time to read a book, I will probably get to it.

Somehow, the important things get done when urgency increases. If you were told you had three weeks to live, you'd suddenly get around to a heap of things you considered important.

On not reading or listening

Well, not so much about not reading or listening, but not doing enough of either. I do read, and I do listen. But I want to do so much more than the day allows.

During my commute, I listen to podcasts. But my commute is really short, and there is so much stuff to listen to. Over a year ago I got Egress for my XDA IIs. So whenever I'm connected, it's downloading podcasts from the various things I'm subscribed to. I can't listen to podcasts while I'm working - that has to be music, or perhaps the radio (London's Capital breakfast show is great - I'm even coming around to the fact that the host isn't Chris Tarrant any more, like it was when I was a kid). But I can't listen to ARCast or the ASP.Net Podcast (not to mention SQLDownUnder, DNR, Hanselminutes, etc) while I'm working. Or non-technical ones like the BBC's Rumour Mill, The Premiership Podcast or Max Lucado's Upwords. Already I've run out of dead time. And I've just noticed that the Edinburgh Fringe podcast is out again.

The best time to listen to podcasts has to be when driving alone. You know, those times when you'd otherwise be listening to the radio. But if you're driving with the family - they don't want to listen to Ron Jacobs, no matter how interesting the topic (no offence, Ron - my wife just isn't into Software Architecture). And she's not interested in football enough to listen to the Rumour Mill.

And reading... I'm jealous of Mitch Wheat, who tells me he reads 2 large books a week. They must both be good books! ;) Yeah, ok... they're not the same 2 books each week, but even so. I don't know when I'd find 2-3 extra hours a day for reading. Time reading is time away from the family, and my computer takes enough of that time as it is.

Don't get me wrong - I do read books... both technical and non-technical. But I find myself constantly lamenting the lack of time for both reading and listening.

Mind you, I've only got to the stage where I'm blogging about it because this morning I noticed the Fringe podcast and a post by Mitch about reading. So I guess it's on my mind. And getting a job that's further away isn't the answer. The answer is to warp space and time, to insert a few extra hours into each day.

03 August 2006

Proctoring at TechEd

I'm helping out with the Hands On Labs at TechEd this year. Should be fun. It makes TechEd cheaper for my employer (not that they particularly care), but that's not really important to me. What is important to me is that it's a chance to be able to help people learn stuff that will be important. It's why I'm an MCT, and it's why I'm involved in the user-groups.

Speaking of user-groups, if you're in my SQL User Group, and you haven't volunteered to do a 5-minute slot next Thursday yet, then drop me a line.

PS: If you're going to TechEd, drop by the Hands On Labs on Wed 1-4, Thu 8:30-11:30 or Friday 12-3 to say hi.

01 August 2006

Kelvin Wilson appears to be offline.

My time away was good. I had lots of fun at Redmond. It was really great to work with such talents as Tobias, Brian and Bill. The weather was great too, and having my family there made everything good. We sat by the pool in the evenings, or went out somewhere.

So after 2 weeks there, we went to London to see my family. My grandmother has heart surgery this week, so it was very good timing. The weather was hot, and things were good...

...except that on Monday morning, I had a phone-call from Australia to tell me that my friend Kelvin Wilson had died. I would talk to Kelvin almost on a daily basis. We would talk about SQL, about theology, sci-fi, comedy, rugby. It's very sad that he has died. There is a blog that can take comments about him - - you will be missed. His funeral is tomorrow, and I will be there. It will be the first funeral I have been at since Roslyn's dad died, which in turn was the first funeral I was at since my own dad died over 20 years ago. I don't do funerals in general. For Kelvin, I will make an exception.