Working with bit masks in T-SQL

Decoding bitwise masks can be a bit confusing, so I wanted to share a couple of T-SQL functions I’ve created to make them easier to deal with. If you’d like to read more about bitmasks and applying them in T-SQL, you can read about it at SQL Fool: T-SQL Bitwise Operators.

The first will return the value in a given bit position of an integer – it accepts two parameters (the lookup value and the bit position) and returns a bit for the value in that position. Note that it starts with position zero, so make sure you’re counting correctly:

CREATE FUNCTION dbo.BitwisePosition(
	@value BIGINT,
	@PositionNumber INT

		SET @Mask = POWER(2,@PositionNumber)

	SET @Result = (CASE @value & @Mask WHEN @Mask then 1 else 0 end)

	RETURN @Result


The second function returns a bit (true/false) based on whether a provided bitmask applies to a reference value:

CREATE FUNCTION dbo.BitwiseMask(
	@value BIGINT,


	SET @Result = (CASE @value & @Mask WHEN @Mask then 1 else 0 end)

	RETURN @Result


Don’t forget to grant them permissions:


To use these functions, you’d call them as in these examples:

-- Value:   1110001000
-- Position 9876543210
-- Checkpoing position 7, 4, and 0 should return 1, 0, 0
 select dbo.bitwiseposition(904, 7),
		dbo.bitwiseposition(904, 4),
		dbo.bitwiseposition(904, 0)

-- Value:   1110001000 = 904
-- Bitmask: 0010001000 = 136
-- Will return true since mask "fits inside" value
select dbo.bitwisemask(904, 136)

-- Value:   1110001000 = 904
-- Bitmask: 0010001001 = 137
-- false since mask has a bit "outside" value
select dbo.bitwisemask(904, 137)

I hope you find them helpful!

Write permission error when inserting over linked server

I spent some time troubleshoot permissions over a linked server recently before finding out the the cause of my error wasn’t permissions-related at all. I was attempting to perform an insert on a remote table, and was getting the following error:

Msg 7344, Level 16, State 1, Line 2
The OLE DB provider “SQLNCLI10” for linked server “RemoteServer” could not INSERT INTO table “[RemoteServer].[RemoteDB].[dbo].[IdentInsertTest]” because of column “ID”. The user did not have permission to write to the column.

After some time attempting to isolate the missing permissions, I realized that it was actually a disguised error message. I was trying to insert a value into an identity column, but rather than the standard error message I expected to see in that case, I got a generic “You don’t have permission” message, leading to some wasted time troubleshooting.

To recreate the issue, you can follow these steps:

-- Create a test table
CREATE TABLE IdentInsertTest (
	SomeValue VARCHAR(10)

-- This insert will succeed
INSERT INTO IdentInsertTest (SomeValue)
SELECT 'Some Value'

-- Will fail with IDENTITY_INSERT error
INSERT INTO IdentInsertTest (ID, SomeValue)
SELECT 10, 'Some Value'

The second statement will fail with the standard error message:

Cannot insert explicit value for identity column in table ‘IdentInsertTest’ when IDENTITY_INSERT is set to OFF.

Now, connect to another server and set up a linked server to the other instance, and then try these statements again:

-- This remote insert will succeed
INSERT INTO LinkedServer.RemoteDB.dbo.IdentInsertTest (SomeValue)
SELECT 'Some Value'

-- Will fail with a permissions error
INSERT INTO LinkedServer.RemoteDB.dbo.IdentInsertTest (ID, SomeValue)
SELECT 10, 'Some Value'

If I’d realized what I was doing, it would have saved me some troubleshooting time! The moral here is that if your statement fails over a linked server, ensure your user account is set up correctly and then test it locally – you may get a more accurate error message!

Calculating working hours between two dates

As a follow-up to an earlier post (Return a list of all dates between a start and end date), I need to find the number of working hours between two timestamps – in this case, it was to see how long a support ticket had been open before it was initially assigned, but the user didn’t want non-work hours to count against them.

To do this, I used the previous script to generate a list of dates and hours, and then marked the rows as work time or not (based on day of week and hour of day, evaluated together). The result was a table that would effectively let me do a SUM to find the value I was looking for. Once I had that table, I could join to it for rows between the two datetimes in question and SUM up rows that had “WorkTime” marked:

SELECT tt.TicketNumber,
       SUM(  CONVERT(INT, wh.WorkTime)) as WorkHoursBeforeAssigned
       COUNT(CONVERT(INT, wh.WorkTime)) as TotalHoursBeforeAssigned
  FROM TroubleTickets tt
  JOIN #WorkingHours wh
    ON wh.EvaluateTime BETWEEN tt.TicketCreateTime
                           AND tt.TicketAssignTime
GROUP BY tt.TicketNumber,

In this case, tickets that were created and picked up after hours, without passing any worktime, would show as zero hours old (as they should, since they were interested in working time) – however, I’ve also included COUNT here to show total hours as well as work hours.

Also, this script only counts for raw day-of-week and hour-of-day working time – it ignores holidays and other special circumstances. I have a script that tracks holidays (American ones, at least), and I’ll put that up shortly as well – if you want to take holidays into account, you could incorporate that into your evaluation.

Here’s the script that builds the working time table (you can also download it here):

-- Set things up before we get started
		@WorkTimeEnd		TINYINT,
		@WorkDayOfWeekStart	TINYINT,
		@WorkDayOfWeekEnd	TINYINT

		@EndDate			DATETIME

CREATE TABLE #WorkingHours (
		EvaluateTime	DATETIME,
		IsWorktime		BIT DEFAULT(0)


	SET @WorkTimeStart = 7  --7AM
	SET @WorkTimeEnd   = 16 --4PM hour (4-5PM count as working)
	SET @WorkDayOfWeekStart = 2 --Monday
	SET @WorkDayOfWeekEnd   = 6 --Friday

	SET @StartDate	= '2000-01-01 00:00:00'
	SET @EndDate	= '2020-12-31 23:59:59'


-- Built the list of timestamps we're working with
;WITH numberlist(number)
   AS (SELECT RANK() over(order by c1.object_id,
		 from sys.columns c1
         join sys.columns c2)
INSERT INTO #WorkingHours (EvaluateTime)
SELECT DATEADD(hh, number-1, @StartDate)
  FROM numberlist
 WHERE DATEADD(hh, number-1, @StartDate) <= @EndDate

-- Set the times to worktime if they match criteria
UPDATE #WorkingHours
   SET IsWorktime = CASE WHEN (DATEPART(dw, EvaluateTime)
								BETWEEN @WorkDayOfWeekStart
								AND @WorkDayOfWeekEnd)
							  (DATEPART(hh, EvaluateTime)
							   BETWEEN @WorkTimeStart
							   AND @WorkTimeEnd) THEN 1
						 ELSE 0

-- Retun the results
 SELECT * FROM #WorkingHours
 ORDER BY EvaluateTime

 DROP TABLE #WorkingHours

Clean up vendor names and other data with unwanted numbers/characters

In creating an accounting report, the vendor names we get back from our credit card processor needed some major clean-up: “52334SOUTHWESTAIR1234”, “ABD2343-BLUE DINER 843”, and so on. I initially found a great function for this from Pinal Dave:

But I wanted to make a few enhancements to it:

  1. He leaves numbers in the string and I’d like to remove them
  2. I’d like to combine multiple spaces in a row into a single space, but leave spaces intact

The first is pretty easy to do – just remove the [0-9] and add a space to the PATINDEX. The second one uses a trick from another post I did a few years ago.

Here’s the modified version:

CREATE FUNCTION dbo.UDF_ParseAlphaChars2
   @string VARCHAR(8000)
   DECLARE @IncorrectCharLoc SMALLINT
   SET @IncorrectCharLoc = PATINDEX('%[^ A-Za-z]%', @string)

   WHILE @IncorrectCharLoc > 0
      SET @string = STUFF(@string, @IncorrectCharLoc, 1, '')
      SET @IncorrectCharLoc = PATINDEX('%[^ A-Za-z]%', @string)

   -- Trim groups of spaces into single space
   SET @string = LTRIM(RTRIM(REPLACE(REPLACE(REPLACE(@string,' ','<>'),'><',''),'<>',' ')))

   RETURN @string

SELECT dbo.UDF_ParseAlphaChars2('ABC”_I+{D[]}4|:e;””5,<.F>/?6')
SELECT dbo.UDF_ParseAlphaChars2('52334SOUTHWESTAIR1234')
SELECT dbo.UDF_ParseAlphaChars2('ABD2343-BLUE DINER 843')

Roll your own lightweight SQL Server source control

I’ve wanted to implement some kind of source control on my SQL Servers before, but the only product available at the moment is Red-Gate’s SQL Source Control, and I didn’t need all the functionality it offered (or want to pay for it). Also, it relies on developers checking-in their changes, and that’s prone to forgetfulness anyways, as well as leaving your database prone when somebody just changes something in production, without using their development tool – ouch. Sure,  you’re protected against accidental drops, but what if somebody tweaks something in production without checking it back in? You’re hosed.

All I wanted was a simple process that would run automatically, taking periodic snapshots of the database objects and recording any changes. I decided to roll my own – it’s quick, simple, can be set up to run on a schedule, and automatically includes any new databases created on the server without any intervention.

This Stored Procedure goes through the following steps:

  1. If the Master.dbo.coSourceControl table (used to store the history) doesn’t exist, it creates it
  2. For each database on the server (so new databases are added automatically), it:
    1. Grabs the text contents of all the user objects (not flagged as “IsMsShipped”)
    2. Compares the contents of each to the last known copy (if there is one)
    3. If the object is new or has changed, add a new copy to the source control table in master
  3. Output the number of objects updated
  4. Optionally, it could email somebody to tell them about the results, but it currently does not

The history is kept in a single table – master.dbo.coSourceControl – which has the database it came from, the object_id, the object name, object contents, and the timestamp. Since it uses the object_id to track things, it will also record a name change in an object, even if the contents didn’t change.

To implement it, just grab the script and run it in the master database – it will create the stored procedure coSourceControlRefresh. That’s it – now either run it on demand, or you can schedule it. It will create the supporting table (if it’s missing) and scan every database every time it’s run. To see the history for an object, just do:

  SELECT db_name(databaseid) as [Database],
         object_name(objectid) as [Object Name],
    FROM master.dbo.coSourceControl
   WHERE object_name(objectid) LIKE '%The name of some object%'

Restoring a dropped or changed database object should be as simple as running the query above, grabbing the contents of ObjectText you’re interested in, and then pasting it in another window and executing it. Bam – previous version of the object restored (and this stored proc should, the next time it runs, see that you’ve altered the object and record that there’s a “new” version of it).

If you run it and like it – or don’t like it – please leave a comment to let me know – nothing expected in return, but it’s nice to know when people find it useful. I’m happy to make any enhancements you’d like to see. I hope you enjoy it and it’s able to save you from the headache of a dropped database object to which you can’t find the source!

Download the Source Control database script