The Data Studio

About The Data Studio

The Data Studio

The Data Studio Limited is a UK Limited Company that was formed at the beginning of 1996. It is a legal entity that enables me to be a freelance consultant. My work is all about databases and my contracts have covered database design, migration, loading and managing data for Data Warehouses, application development using databases, data quality, data governance, database tools and even database operations. But in all these roles I am, essentially, a database programmer. That's what I do and that's what I love doing.

My contracts have been in public sector (NHS and Police) and private sector (mobile phone companies, banks, insurance and other finance) as well as Network Rail (hybrid public/private).

The Data Studio has always favoured methods of working that emphasise small, skilled teams. It aims for a high-quality artisan approach. The logo is intended to reflect this. It shows some of the tools that I would see on my father's desk. He was a map maker (a "cartograhical draughtsman") drawing maps by hand with a small team of skilled artisans, having great attention to detail and a high degree of accuracy. This is what I wanted to capture in the word "studio". This is how we work.

The name "The Data Studio" has been used by other companies and products. It has been registered as my company for 22 years and I'm sticking to it.

About This Website

Most of what you will see on this website is factual, tested stuff that I have found useful and that I hope you will too. All the code examples are tested and the results are exactly what I got by running them.

Protest Warning

Some parts of this website are opinions. Where these take up a whole page or a significant section of a page I flag them with this image. These parts are my opinions, strongly held and derived from many years working in the computer business.

To be clear, I have worked with some real stars, people who wanted to earn a decent living, of course, but these stars all gave more than they took. They worked hard, they argued to be allowed do the right thing, they put in extra hours for their colleagues and for their users. They made systems that worked.

My protests are about the people who operate from motives of personal greed or laziness and somehow manage to hold down jobs in this business. I also protest about the systems that support them. I include the warning so that you can skip these sections if you prefer to, but I do think they are important. I care about doing a good job and about delivering systems that help other people to do a good job. I get very frustrated with those who stand in the way of the good people who are trying to make the world a little bit better, and I feel it is fair to point out such negative practices. If you think I'm being gratuitously offensive, feel free to let me know and I'll review the part that offends you, because that is not my intention (unless you're one of the bad guys).

About Ron Ballard

Ron Ballard

In 1970 I went to Manchester University to take a BSc in “Liberal Studies in Science”. The course was designed to produce literate scientists and numerate artists. As part of that course I studied Computer Science and I was hooked.

After university I worked for 6 years in applications development and then I was lucky to get a job developing a bibliographic database for the British Library.

I then worked for 5 years as a developer for Cincom, which built pre-relational “network” databases. I was the lead developer for two products, both of which earned millions of dollars for Cincom. $5 million was a lot of money in the 1980s.

Next I worked for Ingres for 5 years (the best job ever) and then Gupta (SQLBase) for 5 years.

So that was 16 years steeped in database technology, most of it relational databases.

Since then, for the last 21 years I have worked on large database systems: several data warehouse systems and some data migrations. Clients included: mobile phone companies, two of the largest Turkish banks, Network Rail, several British police forces, a pioneering insurance company using driving data collected in the car, and a leading payment processor. I have taken several leading roles, all of them involving database design and development, and all of them involving some consultancy and mentoring in the use of relational databases.

I spend most of my time working with developers, helping them through the maze of vendors' promises and consultants’ lofty pronouncements. I get on well with developers because I am still building databases and writing applications so I am in touch with the work they are doing. I enjoy working out solutions with them and helping them with the implementation and, always, learning from them. I believe in sharing what works and challenging what does not work, and I’m happy to be tested either way.

I'm still a database programmer. As you browse through these pages you will find solutions to problems that database programmers face. I hope some of them are useful to you.