UTF-8 for SQL Server

Microsoft in the News

When it comes to travel, I live by making good use of a couple tech items. First and foremost is my Microsoft Surface Book. I loved my first one, my second one was even better, and now my 15” Surface Book 2 is the hub for all my work and online needs.

The second piece of tech that I would not want to be without is my Bose noise cancelling ear buds. Whether I use it just to cancel out noise, or for phone calls or listening to a book, I love these things.

So you can imagine my conflicted feelings when Microsoft announced that they now have Surface brand noise cancelling headphones. Just like the introduction of the Surface and Surface Book, these are not just another competitor in an already saturated market. Microsoft has introduced features to these headphones that make them unique leave you wondering why the competitors hadn’t already introduced this.

The Surface Headphones have been under development for over three years. The bar for entry into the premium headphone market is set by Sony and Bose, and Microsoft has matched them in sound and noise cancelling. I think Microsoft has now raised the bar by introducing some new features.

The Surface Headphones feature an integrated dial in each ear cup. On the right, you can adjust the volume by dialing it up or down. On the left, you can adjust the level of noise cancelling appropriate to your environment. There are thirteen levels of noise cancelling.

Additionally, each ear cup integrates a quarter sized touch control. These allow you to pause and play your music (or audiobook), answer and end phone calls, or skip forward or back with your music tracks.

Taking the headphones off your head will cause your music to automatically pause, and will resume when you put them back on.

Microsoft built in eight microphones so you can use these headphones for phone calls, or to voice activate Cortana, Alexa or Google Assistant.

Of course these headphones are wireless and will work with any Bluetooth device, including the ubiquitous iPhone (ok, I just realized I have a third piece of tech I wouldn’t want to be without). Because they are wireless, they charge via a USB-C plug in, and the battery is rated for 15 hours of use.

These headphones will initially be available only in the US.

UTF-8 for SQL Server

This will mark the start of a new blog series about UTF-8 for SQL Server. This topic will bring you back to your college years since most of us have had little or no reason to think about Unicode, collation, or sort orders since that time. I picked this easily overlooked topic because I believe that compression and storage issues will only become more important as we continue to generate terabytes of data from everyday items like refrigerators and thermostats. The introduction of UTF-8 to SQL Server will help address these storage issues.

In September of this year, Microsoft announced that they will introduce UTF-8 support in SQL Server 2019. They are saying that this can result in up to fifty percent reduction in your storage requirements for you character data. UTF-8 will allow for compression of your character data without having to resort to writing additional routines or finding compression software from an external source.

In order to fully understand how the introduction of UTF-8 will be significant, we need to go back to some basics for a refresher. Once we are all back up to speed on the things we learned a century ago when we were in university, we can then see more clearly why Microsoft chose to bring this feature to SQL 2019.

In my next blog I will take you down memory lane with a tour of Unicode. If that sounds like fun, you can keep your geek card.