Friday, April 10, 2009

SQL2008 SP1 (Service-Pack) Released

In case you happen to be an enthusiast of Microsoft's newest SQL-Server Database software - SQL Server 2008 - you may be interested in knowing the latest Service Pack 1 for SQL2008 is now available. What you may not care to know is how small the list of new features is with this SP1 package -- it is mainly a cumulative bug-fix release.

Microsoft sums up the new features with three bullet points, that are essentially the following (which, I see potential in at least two items):
  • You can "slipstream" a SQL Server 2008 update and the original installation media so that original media and the update [presumably Service Pack 1 for example] are installed at the same time in future installs. Slipstreaming is an installation method that integrates the base installation files for a program with its service packs and enables them to be installed in a single step. The [SQL-Server 2008] update setup documentation available from the SQL Server Download Center has the most recent description of the slipstream process [including SP1 changes that make slipstreaming SQL2008 SP1 possible]. I plan to try this out soon using SQL-Server 2008 Developer Edition with SP1 as my slipstreamed update of choice. I really hate having to install Microsoft products and then apply all sorts of Service Packs and updates in addition (which of course means, more installation time, more reboots, and correspondingly more system down time), so this is quite welcome!
  • SQL Server 2008 SP1 now introduces the ability to uninstall cumulative updates or service packs via Programs and Features in Control Panel. I have not tried this yet; I will take their word for it, though I can only imagine the horror stories that will appear on blogs in the near future when people attempt to do this :)
  • SQL Server 2008 Service Pack 1 provides a ClickOnce version of Report Builder 2.0. [my only comments: I have no idea what this is or why I even should care... I build databases, not reports, using SQL-Server; when I need reports, I use a "real" report builder that has wide adoption and a longer track record... at least for now]
SQL-Server is my favorite Microsoft software application, as I find it to be an incredibly robust relational database platform that is not only powerful and fast, but one that is easy to fully exploit from a software-developer's standpoint. Although it can handle very large databases (10's and even 100's or more Gigabytes in size), it is still quite manageable without a full time dedicated DBA (presuming your database and procedural code and queries are designed properly).

SQL2008 is yet another solid version of this database platform, and surely deserves a look if you have not upgraded from SQL2000 or SQL2008 (if you are using a version older than either of those, well, you are simply insane).

Now, I will look forward to SQL-Server 2008 SP2, or perhaps SQL-Server 2008 SP3 to introduces some nifty new features that may be more enticing to me as a database designer and database software developer. I expect the SQL-Server 2008 SP2 Release Date will be long ways off yet, and I suspect it will not even come until 2010. So, for now, off to play with SQL2008 SP1 I go...

Monday, April 06, 2009

Mortgage / Refinance Rates - Home Equity, Conventional, etc

With mortgage interest rates being at super-low, rock-bottom, and certainly historically low levels, I have recently been thinking about how these rates really filter down to the consumer. I see home equity loan interest rates advertised as low as under 4 percent, though I am having a hard time determining if those are fixed-rate home equity loans (since they are quoted as Prime plus 3.25% or so), or whether, after taking out the loan, those rates are variable rate loans or somehow "float" over time.

I have seen 30-year fixed rate mortgage interest rates advertised at under 5% recently, though most often only if points and the like are paid (no-point loan rates seem to be just above 5% still regardless of all this talk I hear on TV of sub-5-percent loans).

Well, fact of the matter is that anything down in this range is quite reasonable considering the history of mortgage rates in the United States over the past decades. I remember the rates being quite high in the late 1970's and even through the late 1980's and early 1990's (my first home loan rate was something like 10.5% back then!!!), and it really is just amazing how people complain about "high interest rates" being anything over 5% (yes, I have heard people complain about this) even as I had to pay on a loan at twice that rate.

I calculated the other day how, if I purchased the same house now as compared to 20 years ago, I could have a payment that is literally just over HALF the amount of payment I had to make back then, and this is not even inflation-adjusted. If you throw inflation adjustment into the mix, the current-day mortgage payment would be essentially 1/4 to 1/3 of the payment. As such, I am just amazed that the housing market is still completely terrible. Sure, jobs are a major consideration, but wow... how much lower can rates go?!

I can not help thinking that it only makes sense to perhaps "step up" to a larger home or bigger yard or whatever while these lowest mortgage rates, lowest refinance rates, and lowest home equity rates in *forever* are available. I like my current house and yard, but I sure am feeling the "itch" to make a step-up now if I can.

The job market is bound to remain shaky, unemployment is sure to stay elevated for a while, but there is also one HUGE amount of fiscal stimulus in play (think: the Federal Reserve printing tons of money - TRILLIONS), that should get things flowing eventually. The only question is how long it will take for the Fed's, and Treasury's, massive injection of stimulus to start causing inflation. IF one would know that inflation is inevitable (especially re-inflation of some intensely-depressed home prices), then it would only make financial sense to purchase a property now, while interest rates are low, and hope for perhaps just a modest rise in interest rates coupled with a more substantial rise in home prices... that way, in theory, you can pay off the mortgage with post-inflated dollars.

But, who knows. Theory just does not seem to be panning out, since if it was, all this dollar-printing would drive interest rates higher (instead of lower) and also cause the US Dollar to devalue (versus getting "stronger" as everyone does the whole "flight to safety" thing). Macroeconomics, per what we were taught in College, is simply out the window lately, and this makes it tough to know whether these lowest mortgage rates, refinance rates, home equity rates, etc are all worth pursuing. arhghghgh. I need a crystal ball!