One of Those Must Read Books – The Cuckoo’s Egg

The Cuckoo's EggI was reading a book about network security monitoring and it mentioned The Cuckoo’s Egg by Cliff Stoll. Stoll’s book has been around for a long time, and it’s considered a classic book with regards to information security. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s the story of a gentleman who wasn’t an IT person who happened to uncover an international hacking attempt (a large one) during the Cold War era and helped track it to its source. The technology is dated – it covers incidents during the Cold War – but the basic techniques to detect, track, and catch are not.

If you have anything to do with information technology, this is one of those books you should try and read. It’s not a slow, academic tome. It’s a well-written tale based on events. You don’t have to be a security professional to appreciate it. After all, Mr. Stoll was not; he was an astronomer. Whatever your role in IT, I hope it’ll cause you to think deeper and longer about how best to implement security mechanisms and controls in what you do. It should also give you an appreciation for how the smallest detail can tip us off to something being wrong in our systems. After all, it was a tiny accounting error that led Cliff Stoll on his quest.

New Performance Tips eBook Out from Red Gate

Not too long ago Red Gate asked for quick tips on SQL Server performance intended for developers. I sent a couple in. They’ve compiled those tips into a free eBook format. If you want to download it:

45 Database Performance Tips for Developers


Review: SQL Server Transaction Log Management

SQLServerTransactionLogManagementBook Details:

SQL Server Transaction Log Management
Davis, Tony and Shaw, Gail
Simple Talk Publishing, October 2012.

Free PDF download

Do I Recommend This Book?

Yes, I recommend this book for any DBA working with Microsoft SQL Server. Gail and Tony do an excellent job of covering how Microsoft SQL Server uses the transaction log for a database. There are plenty of code examples to reveal the behavior they describe. In addition, they provide plenty of references to other sources which reinforce or expand upon what they cover in the book.

What I Liked:

There’s a lot about this book I liked, so let me pick out the highlights.

Easy Reading Style:

Some technical books are hard to read. There’s a lot of jargon and a lot of assumptions are made as to the technical proficiency of the reader. Others have called this the Curse of Knowledge. Gail and Tony don’t have this issue. They make the book readable to a junior DBA level.

Extensive Code Examples:

Gail and Tony provide code examples for just about every behavior they describe. None of them were very long, but all were effective. Sometimes code samples are too long to reasonably type in. However, most of us learn best from learning, so typing in code is helpful. That means the code samples have to be reasonably small. They were in this book as I typed in nearly every example and then tinkered with them to see the behavior described. There was one example where there looks there was a printing/editing error, Listing 7.1), but the rest worked as long as I didn’t mistype. If you don’t feel like typing the code in, there is a provided download (Listing 7.1 is correct in the download).

Coverage of Bulk-Logged Recovery Mode:

This book had an extensive amount of coverage on the bulk-logged recovery mode. Gail and Tony did a great job explaining why this mode exists as well as the pros and cons of using it. If you don’t get this book for any other reason, get it to review what you know about bulk-logged recovery mode.

What I Didn’t Like:

There are only a couple of things I didn’t like.

Images Were Designed for an e-Book:

Some of the images used colors/shading that don’t show up well in a printed black & white book. Also, there were some references to shading in green and yellow. As a result, these particular images were hard to read, especially in chapter 2.

Oversight on Differential Backups:

Differential backups establish or re-establish a log chain with respect to future transaction log backups. However, most of the writing focused on full backups. The first time I noted this was in chapter 1, in the section titled Transaction Log Backup and Restore. Later chapters sometimes mentioned differential backups, but it was hit or miss.


Note: I was provided a free copy of this book for review.