Love Your Bugs

Allison Kaptur has an appreciation for strange bugs:

I love this bug because it shows that bitflips are a real thing that can happen, not just a theoretical concern. In fact, there are some domains where they’re more common than others. One such domain is if you’re getting requests from users with low-end or old hardware, which is true for a lot of laptops running Dropbox. Another domain with lots of bitflips is outer space – there’s no atmosphere in space to protect your memory from energetic particles and radiation, so bitflips are pretty common.

You probably really care about correctness in space – your code might be keeping astronauts alive on the ISS, for example, but even if it’s not mission-critical, it’s hard to do software updates to space. If you really need your application to defend against bitflips, there are a variety of hardware & software approaches you can take, and there’s a very interesting talk by Katie Betchold about this.

This is an interesting approach, although I fear I may not have the temperament to love my bugs so much as despise their existence.

Locale Problems With SSAS

Koen Verbeeck diagnoses an awful Analysis Services error:

This really didn’t make any sense. However, in one of the Discover Begin/End events, the same number appeared again: 8192 (this time explicitly marked as locale identifier). Hmmm, I had problems with weird locales before. I dug into my system, and yes, the English (Belgium) locale was lingering around. I removed it from my system and lo and behold, I could log into SSAS with SSMS again. Morale of the story: if you get weird errors, make sure you have a normal locale on your machine because apparently the SQL Server client tools go bonkers.

Worth reading the whole thing.  And also maybe just using en-US for all locales; at least that one gets tested…

Bugs With Backup Compression And TDE

Parikshit Savjani provides recommendations on combining backup compression with Transparent Data Encryption:

In past months, we discovered some edge scenarios related to backup compression for TDE databases causing backups or restores to fail, hence our recommendations have been

  • Avoid using striped backups with TDE and backup compression.

  • If your database has virtual log files (VLFs) larger than 4GB then do not use backup compression with TDE for your log backups. If you don’t know what a VLF is, start here.

  • Avoid using WITH INIT for now when working with TDE and backup compression. Instead, use WITH FORMAT.

  • Avoid using backup checksum with TDE and backup compression

Brent Ozar explains the risk:

When you install a new version of SQL Server, you get new features – and sometimes, you’re not told about them. For example, when 2016’s TDE compression came out, nobody told you, “If you back up across multiple files, your backups might suddenly be compressed.” You didn’t know that you had a new thing to test – after all, I don’t know a lot of DBAs who have the time to test that the new version of SQL Server successfully performs restores. They restore their production databases into the new version, test a few things, and declare victory – but testing restores FROM the new version’s backups isn’t usually on that list.

Keep up to date on those patches.

Incomplete Execution Plan Wait Stats

Brent Ozar has found an issue with query-level wait stats in SQL Server 2016 SP1:

That sounds amazing! Our server only had 609 milliseconds of wait time altogether, none of which was spent waiting on storage! Our storage must be super-blazing fast, and there’s practically no way to tune it to wait less than 609 milliseconds, right?

Spoilers:  it’s not that fast.

Partitioned Views With Memory-Optimized Tables

Ned Otter ran into an issue building partitioned views from a combination of disk-based and memory-optimized tables:

Let’s assume that we have two tables that belong to a partitioned view. Both tables can be memory-optimized, or one table can be memory-optimized, and the other on-disk.

Success condition

an UPDATE occurs to a row in a table, and the UPDATE does not change where the row would reside, i.e. does not cause it to “move” to another table, based on defined CONSTRAINTS

Failure conditions:

   a. UPDATE occurs to a row in the memory-optimized table that causes it to move to either another memory-optimized table, or a on-disk table

   b. UPDATE occurs to a row in the on-disk table that causes it to move to the memory-optimized table

Read the whole thing.  The good news is that if you’re splitting in a way that doesn’t require updating from one type of table to the other, partitioned views work fine.

Indirect Checkpoint And Non-Yielding Scheduler Problems

Parikshit Savjani has a post describing an issue you might experience with indirect checkpoint post SQL Server-2012:

One of the scenarios where skewed distribution of dirty pages in the DPList is common is tempdb. Starting SQL Server 2016, indirect checkpoint is turned ON by default with target_recovery_time set to 60 for model database. Since tempdb database is derived from model during startup, it inherits this property from model database and has indirect checkpoint enabled by default. As a result of the skewed DPList distribution in tempdb, depending on the workload, you may experience excessive spinlock contention and exponential backoffs on DPList on tempdb. In scenarios when the DPList has grown very long, the recovery writer may produce a non-yielding scheduler dump as it iterates through the long list (20k-30k) and tries to acquire spinlock and waits with exponential backoff if spinlock is taken by multiple IOC routines for removal of pages.

This is worth taking a close read.

Database Code Analysis

William Brewer has an interesting article on performing code analysis on database objects:

In general, code analysis is not just a help to the individual developer but can be useful to the entire team. This is because it makes the state and purpose of the code more visible, so that it allows everyone who is responsible for delivery to get a better idea of progress and can alert them much earlier to potential tasks and issues further down the line. It also makes everyone more aware of whatever coding standards are agreed, and what operational, security and compliance constraints there are.

Database Code analysis is a slightly more complicated topic than static code analysis as used in Agile application development. It is more complicated because you have the extra choice of dynamic code analysis to supplement static code analysis, but also because databases have several different types of code that have different conventions and considerations. There is DML (Data Manipulation Language), DDL (Data Definition Language), DCL (Data Control Language) and TCL (Transaction Control Language).  They each require rather different analysis.

William goes on to include a set of good resources, though I think database code analysis, like database testing, is a difficult job in an under-served area.

Duplicate Key Error On DBCC CLONEDATABASE

Kevin Feasel

2017-06-15

Bugs, DBCC

Erin Stellato shows an edge case when you have a rather old database you’re trying to clone:

If you’ve been using DBCC CLONEDATABASE at all, you might have run into a cannot insert duplicate key error (or something similar) when trying to clone a database:

Database cloning for ‘YourDatabase’ has started with target as ‘COPY_YourDatabase’.
Msg 2601, Level 14, State 1, Line 1
Cannot insert duplicate key row in object ‘sys.sysschobjs’ with unique index ‘clst’. The duplicate key value is (1977058079).

If you do some searching, you’ll probably end up at this Connect item: DBCC DATABASECLONE fails on sys.sysowners.

The Connect item states that the problem exists because of user objects in model.  That’s not the case here.

I’m working with a database created in SQL Server 2000…now running on SQL Server 2016.

This isn’t very likely to pop up for most places (I hope!), but it’s good to know.

Reading Dump Files With WinDbg

Kevin Feasel

2017-06-14

Bugs

Arun Sirpal shows how to install and use WinDbg to read SQL Server dump files:

Disclaimer: I only issue basic commands, when in the WinDBG command line you can issue all sorts, but for someone like me there is no real point.

Select the file and let it go to work – you will see BUSY messages.

Really understanding how the debugger works is a great skill to have.

R 3.4.0 Installation Bug

Kevin Feasel

2017-05-05

Bugs, R

Steph Locke notes that there was a bug in the R 3.4.0 for Windows installation executable:

If you’re getting the following error when you’ve installed R 3.4.0 on Windows, you’re not alone.

Error in if (file.exists(dest) && file.mtime(dest) > file.mtime(lib) && :
missing value where TRUE/FALSE needed

Read on for the solution.

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