Grant Fritchey

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Category:   interviews   
Written by: Andreas Scherbaum

Please tell us about yourself, and where you are from.

I’ve been working in IT for over 30 years. From support to development to database administration, I’ve covered a lot of ground. I was born in the US in Missouri and grew up there and in Oklahoma. I lived all over the country while I was in the Navy and finally settled in Massachusetts where I raised two kids before moving back to Oklahoma to get away from the snow.

Grant Fritchey

Grant Fritchey

How do you spend your free time? What are your hobbies?

I really love playing with radios and I’m a licensed amateur radio operator, aka a ham. I volunteer with our local Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) and the Oklahoma Medical Reserve Corps as a radio operator. The OMRC is both trained medical personnel and ordinary people who volunteer to help in little things like organizing first aid for bike rides, and big things like natural disasters. I’ll occasionally be spotted playing radio outdoors through Parks on the Air. I also love hiking, sightseeing, and I’m a giant history nerd.

Any Social Media channels of yours we should be aware of?:

Last book you read? Or a book you want to recommend to readers?

The Forsaken (Empires Corps #22). Love me some space marines. Also, Colossus, Bletchley Parks Greatest Secret. Also love me some history.

Any favorite movie, or show?

Babylon 5. I love science fiction, and I think this is one of the best TV shows for science fiction to come out in a very long time. It absolutely has some ups & downs, but overall, it’s a joy.

What does your ideal weekend look like?

What’s a weekend? Kidding. The best ones are when I get to do some radio outside and then go out to a restaurant for dinner.

What’s still on your bucket list?

Oooh, it’s long. Mostly places to visit and things to see. Here in the US, I really want to get to the Smithsonian museums in Washington DC. Outside the US, #1 on the list is a visit to Verdun and the WWI battlefields there.

What is the best advice you ever got?

Ask the pretty girl to dance. It applies to a huge amount of life.

When did you start using PostgreSQL, and why?

I’ve been in the industry now for well over 30 years. A huge chunk of that time was spent on Microsoft SQL Server as a developer and DBA. A little over two years ago. I recognized that the industry was shifting to where most people were multi-platform, supporting more than one data management platform. I did some research and saw three things. 1) PostgreSQL was the fastest growing platform out there. 2) The technology within PostgreSQL was really interesting. 3) The PostgreSQL community was large, helpful, and welcoming. And it’s #3 that really sold it for me.

Do you remember which version of PostgreSQL you started with?

It was 14 I believe.

I did study at university for a time, but I dropped out before I ever got a degree. I was studying film so I could become the next great horror director like David Cronenburg or John Carpenter. And no, it sure didn’t help me with my current job. However, I am on IMDB.

What other databases are you using? Which one is your favorite?

I do a lot with the Microsoft data platform, SQL Server and its related stuff. I’m not picking a favorite.

In my spare time I’m working on getting data transmitted over the radio through software called Meshtastic and stored in a PostgreSQL database. For work, I’m writing a book on PostgreSQL along with Ryan Booz.

How do you contribute to PostgreSQL?

I am not a coder, so I haven’t tried to go directly into contributing directly to PostgreSQL. Instead, I’m very much working at the edges. I write articles about learning PostgreSQL and publish them, 100% for free, over at Simple-Talk. I’m also presenting sessions at events around the world, again, focused on learning PostgreSQL.

What is your favorite PostgreSQL extension?

Without a doubt, pgBackRest. I’ll explain why in the next question.

What is the most annoying PostgreSQL thing you can think of? And any chance to fix it?

Backups. Flat out. The native mechanisms for backups are just not good enough. Thankfully we have tools like pgBackRest. Without that, your data is at risk in the event of a problem. And as good as PostgreSQL is, you’re still going to hit problems that could result in data loss, so having a thorough, tested, restore strategy is vital. Getting that restore strategy built with only the native tools is tough.

What is the feature you like most in the latest PostgreSQL version?

I like the new monitoring capabilities like pg_stat_io. It’s so important to understand what is happening on your servers.

Adding to that, what feature/mechanism would you like to see in PostgreSQL? And why?

Better backups. I know we have extensions that will save us, but an improved, native backup solution would be great.

Should PostgreSQL have a built-in connection pooler?

Probably not my highest priority, but yeah, I’ve worked with a database system that has one, and they are handy.

Could you describe your PostgreSQL development toolbox?

Let’s start with the most important, source control. I use GitHub, but I like GitLab and the others as well. But it’s vital that you recognize that your databases are code and treat them as such by getting them into source control. I use Flyway to then get the code out of source control for deployments. I work with DBeaver, Visual Studio Code and Azure Data Studio for most of my coding.

Which skills are a must have for a PostgreSQL developer/user?

Simple, the ability and the desire to learn. All of technology, but certainly PostgreSQL, is a constantly moving target. You must be learning all the time just to keep up.

Do you use any git best practices, which makes working with PostgreSQL easier?

Yeah, treat your databases like code. Get them into source control. If nothing else, it acts as an undo button since you can see what a table looked like before you changed it without resorting to a backup.

Which PostgreSQL conferences do you visit? Do you submit talks?

I’ve been to three so far, PGDay Chicago, PGDay Mediterranean and PGConf.EU. And yeah, I spoke at all three as well. I have hopes to go to more and I am submitting sessions.

Do you think PostgreSQL has a high entry barrier?

Absolutely not. There is almost no barrier to entry at all. However, I do find, as someone who really is still very much learning PostgreSQL, that a lot of the documentation is written more for academics and PostgreSQL coders than for people who just need to know how to do stuff. It is a struggle to figure out the right things to do and the right way to do them. We’re frequently buried in options without a clear and simple path.

Do you think PostgreSQL will be here for many years in the future?

Oh PostgreSQL is going nowhere but up. We’re going to see more and more adoption. It’s a very solid technology with an excellent track record. The amount of contributors ensures that innovation will always be a part of PostgreSQL. Finally, the PostgreSQL community is friendly, open and helpful, and that’s going to bring more people in.

Would you recommend PostgreSQL for business, or for side projects?

Why not both? It’s absolutely powerful enough for business. It’s stable. It’s secure. It’s well supported. All of this makes it ready to be put to work. As for side projects, it’s just fun too.

What is your opinion on ORMs?

Honestly? I like ORMs. I think they absolutely can help to speed development and help us deliver functionality to our customers faster. I am a fan. That said, like any tool, if it’s misused or abused, it can absolutely cause problems. I think there’s a lot of misuse and abuse of ORMs out there. For every successful project using an ORM, I’d be willing to bet there are 5-10 projects in severe pain or even failing.

SQL versus NoSQL databases?

Well, I hate the term NoSQL. It’s just evidence of a temper tantrum someone threw when they recognized, correctly don’t get me wrong, that relational data stores don’t solve every problem. However, throwing out relational storage, NO SQL, and the SQL language was a silly step, especially when you consider that many non-relational storage engines have added a flavor of SQL to their tool set. However, I think there is absolutely a need for non-relational databases. They fulfill a purpose, same as relational databases. Anyone arguing, in either direction, that there’s no need for multiple platforms is either grossly uninformed or trying to sell you something.

Which other Open Source projects are you involved or interested in?

Ooh, radio has a bunch of open source projects I try to help in where I can. M17 is an open source digital mode that’s pretty exciting. Chirp is an open source tool for programming radios that’s pretty useful too.

Anything else you like to add?

Just the strong suggestion that you locate your local PostgreSQL community, whether it’s meetups, user groups, whatever, and get involved. It’s a great way to network and a great way to learn.