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The official PASS Blog is where you’ll find the latest blog posts from PASS community members and the PASS Board. Contributors share their thoughts and discuss a wide variety of topics spanning PASS and the data community.

PASS Summit Cancellation/Refund Policy Explained

As we navigate through new territory in planning for PASS Summit, we realize that this uncertainty will naturally result in new questions from our community. Transparency is key at all times, and we have been working to get the information we need to answer all of your questions as they arise.

One of the questions we have been asked most recently relates to the PASS Summit refund policy. Wendy announced earlier this month that if we are unable to move forward with an in-person event as planned, we would be ready to switch to an alternative virtual conference. We know there are still a lot of important unanswered questions—including the pricing structure, format, and timing of the virtual event—and we hope to be in a position to provide all of these answers asap and no later than June.

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Automate Professional PowerPoint Presentations Using R

The following blog post was co-authored by Jeff Renz and Brian Liberatore.

The PowerPoint presentation is the vehicle of choice for information sharing among many businesses. R brings unparalleled power to data analysis and visualization. However, getting those visualizations from a window in R Studio to a formatted slide via copy/paste is tedious and error prone. There is a better way. Jeff Renz demonstrates how R Markdown can automate the creation of presentation-worthy slides from R code. This feature saves hours of time, eliminates errors, and allows a user to update a two-hundred-page slide deck with a key stroke. This is key for decks that include state-by-state data, profit margins across dozens of product lines, or complex visualizations reliant on constantly updated data.

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What Are the Different Types of User Defined Functions in SQL Server?

A few years ago, I did quite a few query tuning engagements. Many of my clients were small software companies who typically did not have a SQL Server DBA on staff. I looked for several anti-patterns, or what I like to call “red flags,” to help find ways that I could help improve performance. One common pattern I saw was the use of user defined functions (UDF).

Just the mention of UDFs in the SQL Server community makes folks cringe. UDFs can be “bad things,” and, to the optimizer, they are often black boxes. It’s also not easy to tell when they are bad by looking at the typical tools used for query tuning like execution plans. In fact, the bad UDFs hide what is really going on from the plan.

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PASS Summit Speaker Agreement Amendment

Members of the community have recently reached out to the Board, and to me personally, asking questions about changes to the PASS Summit speaker agreement cancellation policies; particularly relating to clause 16.

I wanted to share some additional information to clear up any confusion or concerns regarding these clauses.

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Analytical Databases in the Microsoft Data Platform: A Single Source of Truth

Microsoft’s documentation calls Analysis Services an analytical data engine. This documentation references the Tabular Model relying on Vertipaq technology. The marketing involves Azure analytical databases and the growing presence of the refined Big Data tools. No matter what the message, analytical reporting relies on data. The source, structure, and retrieval are important yesterday and today.

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Supporting the PASS Community

It has been a busy few weeks at PASS as PASS HQ and the Board have been working on all the ways that we can support our community as everyone adjusts to the current global situation. We are all challenged by sweeping changes to the way we work, connect, and collaborate, and I am truly proud of everything PASS is doing for our community.

Perhaps the most obvious change for PASS in recent weeks are the 30+ SQLSaturdays that have made the decision to cancel or postpone their upcoming events. The team at PASS HQ has been working diligently to support these many events, field a multitude of questions, and to provide alternative options. We are making special considerations when re-scheduling event dates, as we aim to provide our dedicated event organizers with as much flexibility as we can. We are also offering a temporary virtual option starting with SQLSaturday events originally scheduled to take place in late March and throughout April, to pilot the initiative. We know that connecting, sharing, and learning in-person is important, and right now we have a unique opportunity to support our members in new ways, bringing people together and sharing the magic of the PASS community from the comfort of your home when you need it the most.

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The Optimizer, Statistics, and Correlated Predicates

Sometimes, a query with two predicates (filters) executes slowly, but if you remove one of the predicates it executes faster. Let’s look at why that may be, and one possible solution for it.

When you submit a query to SQL Server, the optimizer’s role is to come up with a good plan that will give accurate results quickly. One of the most important things the optimizer considers when coming up with a plan is the number of rows it expects from an operator, referred to as cardinality.

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What About PASS Summit?

Over the last few weeks, it’s been amazing to see our community come together to lend a helping hand; whether that’s by giving advice on home office set ups, sharing your favorite online learning resources, or simply setting up a virtual social hour to stay connected with friends around the world. It’s moments like these that make me so proud to be a part of this community.

We know that these are challenging times for everyone. The disruptions caused by COVID-19 have meant that you’ve had to rapidly change and adapt to your new realities, and re-evaluate your plans for the future. We also know that this causes a great deal of uncertainty.

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SQLSaturday Founders Celebrate SQLSaturday #1000

In celebration of publishing SQLSaturday #1000, we asked the three original SQLSaturday founders: Andy Warren, Brian Knight, and Steve Jones to share their thoughts and reflections on this incredible milestone.

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M and DAX in Power BI, When to Use Which Language?

If you are planning on working with Power BI, then there are at least two data manipulation languages you will need to learn: M and DAX. The problem is that it isn’t always clear which one you should be using. At times, these can seem a bit redundant – why do we have two languages?

Historically, M and DAX came from two different Excel add-ins: Power Query and Power Pivot. Originally, they served two different purposes and were only loosely connected. Later on, they were combined together with HTML5-based visual rendering to create what we know as Power BI. This means that these tools are going to have some overlap in functionality.

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