On Saturday I attended the SQLBits conference held at Microsoft Campus in Reading. It was another free conference aimed at SQL Server developers and DBAs and consisting of 4 streams of 5 1-hour-long presentations. I teamed up with Jim, friend and former boss, and headed off to Reading ready for a day of learning.

SQL Server is probably my top skill, I've been working with it since version 7, and have designed databases, developed them, tested them and supported them. So, this conference really had my name written all over it. And it didn't disappoint.

I started off with Transactions and Exception Handling, presented by Eric Allsopp which was an in-depth exploration of the locking mechanics within SQL Server, isolation levels as well as exception handling and the advantages of the SQL Server 2005 BEGIN TRY... BEGIN CATCH syntax over the old @@ERROR syntax. Eric obviously knew his stuff, but I have to admit that following a highly technical (in fact, the most technical session I attended) presentation at 9:30 on a Saturday morning was a bit of a struggle.

Next up we headed to the SQL Server 2008 Beyond Relational presentation by Keith Burns and found out about some the cool new features to be presented in SQL Server 2008 - the most interesting being spatial - using both geography and geometry aspects to allow for manipulation of location based data. A great presentation giving a glance into the new version - not that I've got to grips with SQL Server 2005 yet...

The final presentation of the morning was Simon Sabin with 77 SQL Server Myths (although we only got through about 16 or so). This was a really useful session, challenging some of the beliefs I've held over the years (mainly that were true at one point, but weren't any longer) and making me re-evaluate some of the queries I write.

During lunch there were a couple of talks from sponsors, and some Grok talks going on. I managed to attend neither but did do an interview about the day so far with Craig Murphy.

After lunch we headed to Dave McMahon's talk Daves Top 10 SQL Keywords which was truly excellent. He went through his 10 favourite keywords, and explained, giving examples, why they were in the list, with a final countdown in true Top of the Pops style.

We missed the final session altogether as the 2 sessions we'd identified as being useful had either changed, or after discussion turned out to be not what we expected, so we headed off home. A great day, and really refreshing to have a SQL based day like this. Thanks SQLBits.