You deserve a break today. So, instead of my typical rantings about a specific topic, I've collected a few tips that can help you stay current with SQL Server technology and do your job better.

According to my Microsoft sources, the SQL Server team is looking for customers who are still running SQL Server 6.5 and want to migrate to SQL Server 2000 when it ships this summer. For customers who meet certain criteria, the SQL Server development team will test the SQL Server 6.5-to-2000 upgrade and provide a results report. You'll also receive a cool SQL Server 2000 shirt as an extra prize!

Is this some bizarre case of Microsoft altruism, without hidden agenda or ulterior motive? Of course not. Microsoft would simply rather find the upgrade bugs now than let customers find them in the shipping product. Many customers are still running SQL Server 6.5, and to encourage those customers to move to the latest SQL Server release, Microsoft wants the upgrade process to be as smooth and painless as possible.

Unfortunately, I don't have a generic email address at Microsoft for you to send your information to. And although I cringe at the number of responses the following offer might generate, if you're interested in participating in this program, send me an email with a Subject Line of "SQL Server 6.5-to-2000 upgrade." Include in the message body the email address and phone number for your company's primary contact and a brief description of your computing environment. I can't make any promises, especially if I'm flooded with emails, but I'll do my best to get this information to Microsoft (which might or might not follow up). And don't worry, I promise on my SQL Server Magazine word of honor not to use this information for any nefarious schemes of my own!

On a related topic, several readers have asked how to get a copy of SQL Server 2000 Beta 2. You can order the Beta 2 CD-ROM for $9.95 from Microsoft at http://www.microsoft.com/sql. Even better, Microsoft Developers Network (MSDN) Universal Subcribers get free Beta 2 copies in their MSDN shipments, and MSDN Universal Subscribers can now download SQL Server 2000 Beta 2 from http://msdn.microsoft.com/subscriptions/resources/subdwnld.asp. In addition, the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) has teamed with Microsoft to deliver free versions of SQL Server 2000 Beta 2 to its members. (If you aren't a PASS member, see http://www.sqlpass.org/membership/specialoffers/index.cfm for information about a limited-time discount on PASS memberships.) In short, Microsoft is distributing SQL Server 2000 Beta 2 very publicly and very broadly, so if you want a copy, you should be able to find one.

Finally, make sure you keep up with Microsoft's latest SQL Server product flashes. These updates about Microsoft products include invaluable tips and other late-breaking services and support information that can help you do your job better, faster, and easier. You can find public versions of these product support flashes at http://support.microsoft.com/servicedesks/productflashes/prodflash.asp?fr=1.