Insights that Inform

Sparkhound consultants are knowledge-seekers, skill-builders and problem-solvers by nature. This is where we share what we've learned and what we think about what's new (and next) in our industry. If anything you read sparks a question, fire away.

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SQL Server 2017 Details for the IT Decision Maker

SQL Server 2017, released in October, has introduced a number of new additive features that the IT decision maker role should be aware of. While I won't dive deep into technical details here, you should be aware of the new capabilities and potential cost-savings involved. The velocity of SQL Server development is changing. There was only 16 months between SQL Server 2016 and 2017, the...

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Spectre and Meltdown - Is SQL Affected?

Two separate hardware-based exploits have been made public that affect all modern CPU chips, including Intel, AMD and ARM, and operating systems. It is difficult to understate the impact. This flaw allows attackers to dump the entire memory contents off of a machine/mobile device/PC/cloud server, which could include passwords, SSL keys, etc. The “Meltdown” flaw is isolated to Intel and has vast potential to malignant...

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Do We Need to be AI Masters to Create a Chat Bot?

With the emergence of AI and machine learning, development of software is changing quickly. One of the new pushes is digital assistants. Whether it is a robust assistant like Amazon’s Alexa or Microsoft’s Cortana, or more simplistic like a chat window on a website the world is slowly starting to expect a more personal and human interaction with machines. The problem with the development of...

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Eleventh Hour Holiday Shopping

First, if you have not already read our popular blog about gift-worthy wine, you should.  For this list, we polled our team for unique ideas - maybe you find something on this list that's perfect... at the very least, this list will spur your creative juices. In no particular order: 

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Communicate with Purpose

Poor corporate communication can lead to misunderstanding, misalignment, or mistakes that waste time and effort. How can you improve communication in the workplace?

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The Best Red Wine for Gifting

Whether it's the last-minute "what are we bringing" as we rush to the holiday party, or the classic "what'd we get them last year," choose wine. It's not only a safe bet, it is typically universally appreciated. This article should help you stock your cabinet with wine worth gifting.  Affordability and availability are critical therefore we selected seven reds that all come with good reviews...

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Incremental Achievement

Throughout time there have been many references and phrases that teach children the importance of perseverance and patience - the story of “The Tortoise and the Hare,” “Rome wasn’t built in one day,” “patience is a virtue.” Pretty much everything important that we work towards requires time.

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Teaming Up to Help Students Thrive

Charity and volunteer work is an important part of our social structure — so much so that we teach children to do it, expect high school students to complete an appropriate number of volunteer hours and an estimated 10 million people per year even plan vacations around doing good works (known colloquially as “voluntourism.”) Like many good companies, Sparkhound has a charitable side. The Sparkhound Foundation was established in 2010 as a nonprofit charitable organization focused on...

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Is Your Organization RESPONSIVE & RELEVANT?

Let’s set the stage with a quick look at Organizational Effectiveness. Organizational Effectiveness can be defined as how successfully and efficiently your company is meeting its goals and achieving desired outcomes.  Organizational Effectiveness is measured across many areas including talent management, leadership development, adoption and sustainment of change, deployment of new processes and technologies, and more!  Your effectiveness and efficiency in these areas can also influence...

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Google Oauth Integration using an MVC ASP.Net App

Integrating with third party apps is a common requirement that is often frustrating with all of the varying API's out there. I had a tough time finding a complete example that used Google's authorization and API with ASP.Net and MVC. This tutorial shows you how to create an ASP.Net MVC project that integrates with Google Calendar from start to finish including creating the Google project. The...

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Supervised Learning Using Azure Machine Learning

Machine learning and analytics of big data is a rapidly growing field, but learning how to analyze these items has had a steep learning curve, until now. Machine learning is nothing new, and has used a set of standard algorithms for evaluating datasets have not changed. With cloud computing and cheap storage it is now possible to take advantage of these algorithms and apply it...

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Wrapper Classes and Candy Wrappers!

With Halloween just around the corner I figured it would be good to talk about some wrappers.  As a consultant, I frequently choose to use an already established and community trusted library, plugin, or some other type of dependency that handles a specific task rather than writing my own from scratch.  Handling specific protocols like authentication or validation can be self written but there’s a...

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Take a Load Off with Azure Queues

Software today is constantly increasing in scale, performance, and responsiveness requirements. For example, your average website is now expected to provide real-time updates on long-running processes, and the large number of Internet of Things (IoT) products are rapidly increasing the amount of requests to web servers. Old mechanisms for meeting these requirements involved tedious and error-prone programming for developers, which often resulted in unreliable services...

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Tutorial on DateTime JSON Serialization between Client and Server

When it comes to software development, most developers will encounter some difficulty dealing with date and time. That difficulty could manifest itself in a variety of areas such as time zones, precision, database storage types, etc. One particular area that is frustrating to deal with is the serialization of the C# DateTime object from the server to the client. The DateTime object is converted into...

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Leadership Lessons from Hurricane Harvey

Unless you’ve been living under a water-laden rock, you’re probably aware that Houston and surrounding areas experienced a record-breakingly horrific hurricane the last week of August. Right now, the statistics are still evolving as death tolls and property damage numbers roll in even as flood waters recede. Stories of tragedy and bravery give insight into those who have lost their lives in this event. Evacuees...

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Houston Flood Recovery Checklist and Tips

WHERE DO I START? Flooding is a traumatic experience — we unfortunately know what you are going through. Hopefully this list, built from first-hand knowledge, can help you organize a recovery game plan. This list assumes that water has receded from your home and you are beginning recovery. Download the PDF HERE

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3 Ways Managed IT Saves Corporate Dollars [Research]

Over the past twelve months, Sparkhound has dug into developing case studies while researching mid-size and enterprise organizations for common IT support challenges. Our findings have been surprisingly similar across markets, but especially comparable within the healthcare, financial and industrial space. Here are our top three market findings backed by the 2016 HDI Technical Support Practices & Salary Report.

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Countering the Negative Effects of Sitting

Since the rise of technology over the last several decades, more jobs than ever involve sitting at a desk in front of a computer.  In 1960, about 50% of American jobs required moderate physical labor.  Now, about 86% of American workers sit all day for their jobs.  Recently, you may have heard this phrase: “Sitting is the new smoking.”  Scientific studies have shown that a...

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Getting Started with Xamarin Test Cloud

There are tens of thousands of unique mobile devices being used every day. Ensuring your mobile app not only runs, but runs well on all of these devices can be a daunting, if not an impossible task. Purchasing more than a few devices is not fiscally feasible. A great service that closes the gap on the number of devices to test on is Xamarin...

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Why Sponsor Your Local SQLSaturday?

SQLSaturday events are free, community-driven, and community-attended technical training events, created by hours of volunteer labor by local user group organizers. These local user group organizers, driven to help their local/regional IT scene, are authentic representatives of their community.  Folks in attendance are local or regional IT professionals who are enthusiastic about their careers, to the point where they gladly spend most of their Saturday...

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