Oracle’s Lag in MS SQL Server 2005

I am currently porting our new database from Oracle 10g to MS SQL Server 2005, and I have it all done except the views that use the Oracle LAG and LEAD functions (non-ANSI).

What these functions provide (for the MS SQL camp) is the ability to get the next or previous rows when sorted. In my case I have a value that is the ‘volume change since the start’ at time intervals, and I want the relative change between each interval.

So PL/SQL of the view is:

    t.volume - LAG(volume) OVER (PARTITION BY group_number  ORDER BY timestamp) AS volume_change
FROM volume_table t;

The partition clause splits the data into different buckets, then each bucket is sorted, with all results returned.

Asking on the NZ .Net User Group mailing list I got a pointer to this MS feedback page, but the solution presented there gives me an error “Incorrect syntax near ‘ROWS’.” when I run this query against SQL 2K5

SELECT MIN(volume) OVER(PARTITION BY group_number  ORDER BY timestamp
                        ROWS BETWEEN 1 PRECEDING  AND 1 PRECEDING) change
FROM volume_table; GO

I had a side point showing why I wanted to avoid sub-select, as the performance of a different query had an orders of magnitude improvement from changing to using a LAG function, yet that same sub-select query runs just as fast as the “improved” Oracle statement in MS SQL Server, so I’ll just stick to the main topic, and post about that another day…

Chris recently showed how to use Common Table Expressions (CTE) (sort of auto-magic temp table) to find the first entries for a day, which is very close to what I was want, but the filtering is hard coded.  I could not see how to make it dynamic, so I used the idea, and started massaging the concept, till I finally got what I wanted.

Conceptually the Oracle solution could be done using cursors under the hood to provide the rolling previous (LAG) rows, where-as here I’m doing many look-ups but the table is not getting re-created as in the nested select method.

So my code is as follows:

WITH Rows( vol_diff, time, rn, gn ) AS (     SELECT v.volume,
        Row_Number() OVER (PARTITION BY group_number
                           ORDER BY timestamp),
    FROM volume_table v
), PrevRows( timestamp, prev_vol, group_number) AS (     SELECT a.time, b.vol_diff,
    FROM Rows a
    LEFT JOIN Rows b  ON a.rn = b.rn + 1  AND =
) SELECT v.*, v.volume - p.prev_vol as volume_change
FROM volume_table v
LEFT JOIN PrevRows p
    ON v.timestamp = p.timestamp
    AND v.group_number = p.group_number; GO

So I use two CTE tables, one to partition and sort the data, the second to do a lag based join, then I can select the lagged based data, by matching the time and group to the current entry.It works a treat, and I will do some performance testing tomorrow once my production data has finished loading into my db.

After the results of the not discussed query I expect that the sub-select will be just as performant.

Best Song Ever: Orbital – Kein Trink Wasser

Man I have loved this song for ages, and today I have been listening to only my ‘five-star’ songs, and after having listened to the list at least twice, it is still the undisputed ‘Best Song Ever’.

It has a fantastic driving piano build up, with clever layers of piano.  Two fifths through it drops into some fantastic bass that then builds its own layers, and at the half-way mark re-combine with the piano layers, weaving and blending till the end.

Gives me tingles every time I listen, and I’m compelled to jiggle my feet in time, for which Matt once threw a book at me…. but he’s gone!

There is a live performance on You Tube, but the sound quality is missing the feel of it, also the visuals distract from the journey.

Teaching the kids Logo

After yesterdays post about when I learnt to program, I realised my children are older than I was, and have yet to learn the art!  While sharing this with Michaela, I decided Logo was the trick.

It’s visual, so your see your creations, yet accessible/simple.  It exposes concepts like iteration, sequential steps and variables.

XLogo screenshotAfter some searching for a native Mac logo I found XLogo.

I spent a few hours playing, relearning the syntax and making squiggly line shapes.

Really looking forward to introducing the children to it in the weekend.

How I got into programming (meme)

It’s been funny watching this meme slowly traverse my blog roll, and now I’ve been tagged. Cheers Chris

How old were you when you first started programming?

Most likely 8 or 9.

How did you get started in programming?
Roland goes diggingMy father brought an Amstrad CPC464 (green screen) to do his thesis on.  Between ‘Roland goes digging’ and other games, making my own stuff became a fascination.

What was your first language?

Basic and Logo, lots of exploration with trivial stuff, also lots of entering game listings from Amstrad Computer User, in basic and/or hex.  I can’t believe the hours we spent reading in hex, and entering line by line, double/triple checking each one.  We never did get Splat! working….

What was your first real program you wrote?

Real? they really were all real, just not really useful.

Um, outside the demo-scene type graphics stuff, mode-x, ray tracing, phong shading stuff, I’m not sure when I wrote anything of outside value.  During high-school I hacked lots of games, to run, or fiddled the save games to give me lots of money, or better stats.  I wrote a telnet proxy at Uni to get free mudding

The first paid ‘programming’ I did was hacking the POS system at the pizza shop I worked at to change the inventory list, to avoid paying the developers consulting rates…

What languages have you used since you started programming?

To make new stuff:

Loco Basic, Logo, MS QuickBasic, Turbo C, Assembly (x86, 68k, PowerPC, custom), C, Quake-C, Shell/Scripting (Bash, Expect), C++, C#, Erlang

To alter/edit/fix:

Cobal, Fortran 77, VB6, VB.Net, Delphi

What was your first professional programming gig?

Software tester at Teltrend NZ(became Allied Telesyn Research which became Allied Telesis Labs), writing test tools, and automated testing in C, Bash, and Expect. Lots of braking other people’s stuff.

If you knew then what you know now, would you have started programming?

Heck yes, I love making things work, and I still have yet to create my own self adapting machine (aka Skynet/Terminator)

If there is one thing you learned along the way that you would tell new developers, what would it be?

Learn to break stuff as well as build happy day software. Learn how things can/will go wrong, and at least say ‘we not covering that case’, rather than just be ignorant.

What’s the most fun you’ve ever had… programming?


Mud Mapping Client @ Uni: I spent a few too many hours playing on TFE and wrote a ncursors based mapping client and telnet proxy to help playing.  I loved those large Sparc 5 screens.

3D data stuff @ Motion-Art: Also another fantastic time here, writing scripts for 3D Studio Max 2.0. We had a golf course exported from Autocad, and it took over an 1 hour to load the dxf file. We could not even mesh it with 128MB of RAM and 2x1GB swap disks and 48 hours time. So I wrote scripts to reduce the dataset to manageable volumes. Lots of fun, just making stuff work.

Curse Azure Bonds port @ now: This is a labour of love, and I’ve been working on it (in one form of another) for over 9 years.  I call it my knitting project, because I just pick it up, do a little and put it down for latter.  It is so satisfying un-weaving how the original game was built and worked.

I tag Matthew Owens-Smith, Shannon Smith, and Conor Boyd