Monthly Archives: October 2006

Home – Almost

Well, I’m almost home, sitting in Heathrow airport waiting for my connecting flight back home. If I had to pick a word to describe the flight from SFO to Heathrow it would probably be ‘dreadful’. I had the unfortunate combination of –

  • No air-conditioning working in the aisle I was in, it was like sitting in a furnace for the entire trip.
  • My video screen wasn’t working, so I couldn’t watch the in-flight films.
  • I had someone sitting infront of me who just LOVED to bounce back and forward in their seat, hitting my knees everytime I drifted to sleep.
  • The worlds most unhappy baby sitting 2 seats away from me, screamed all the way back…at times I felt like joining in.

Well at least the next flight is only an hour or so…what can possibly go wrong?

Hills, Sea Lions and Submarines

I’m glad I stayed on a couple of days after OOW finished, I absolutely loved OOW, but it gave me a chance to do some non-Oracle stuff (i.e. sight-seeing). Dimitri and I had planned to go and visit Alcatraz, so we set off to catch a cable-car to the Ferry, but unfortunately (as like last time I was in San Francisco a couple of years back) the queues for the cable cars were huge, so we decided to walk. Which seems like a good idea until you get to around your third hill (the first hill is a ‘novelty’, the second hill is a ‘challenge’, the third hill is a heart attack just waiting to happen). Still I have to say that some of the views back down the hills are incredible, particularly once you can see all the way down to the ocean. I forget the name of the street (Mason maybe?), but when you reach the top of the hill and look down there’s a clear view all the way down to Alcatraz, it’s an incredible sight.

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Unfortunately when we got down to the ferry, there were no more trips to Alcatraz that day, which is a shame. I’ve been to it before and really loved it, and could have easily done it all again. Well, there’s always next year I suppose.

We then had a look round the tourist-trap that is Pier 39, if you haven’t already heard of it (and you *can* hear it from about half a mile away), Pier 39 is the place famous for the sea lions. There are two things to bear in mind if you’re thinking of visiting Pier 39, firstly the sea lions are *loud*, secondly it’s a bit ‘stinky’ not to put too fine a point on it. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’ve never seen sea lions in the wild before (although ‘wild’ is a bit of a relative term here).

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After a bit of lunch (and a very well deserved beer), we headed over to a sea/naval museum, which I wanted to have a look round last time I was in San Francisco (not my wife’s cup of tea though, so I was overruled on that one). The museum is home to the USS Pampanito a World War 2 submarine which you can go onboard and look around, it’s also home to a huge supply ship used in the second world war.

Looking round the submarine was incredible, the conditions were incredibly cramped (while we were there, there were probably only 6 or 7 people onboard), during one rescue mission the Pampanito had 73 men onboard, all in the cramped conditions during wartime. You just can’t really imagine what that would be like.

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It’s amazing when you consider that the picture above shows one of the main control panels for the submarine, compare that technology with the amount of processing power you have in the average PC these days…

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I also found the supply ship amazing, if you look closely at the sign in the picture, it tells you that on average it took only 60 days to build one of these ships. I find that incredible when you look at the size and scale of it, so remember to put that into context next time a Java developer takes 18 months to complete that simple project πŸ˜‰

All in all, it was a nice relaxing way to finish my time in San Francisco. I loved OOW, it was my first but it won’t be my last, I’ve met some great people and had a great time…what more can you ask for?

Well, time to go and pack that case!

Famous? Me?

I just noticed over on the OTN TechBlog site, that there’s a picture of me and Steve Howard chatting to someone else (sorry I can’t remember your name!) during the OTN night.

The bizarre thing is that there’s a caption below the photo which says “You won’t believe what I built with APEX last week”, which I’m guessing is refering to me! Which means I was recognised! Absolutely surreal.

I’m not sure if it was Justin Kestelyn himself who took that picture, but I just wanted to say that if it was (Justin), then it’s a shame you didn’t say ‘hello’, since I’ve listened to lots of the OTN techcasts by Justin so it would have been good meet him.

Openworld – Thursday (Final Day)

I can’t believe, it’s the final day already. In some ways it’s seemed like a long week (my feet are certainly feeling it), in other ways it doesn’t seem five minutes since I was stepping off the plane at SFO.

I had a very early start today (up at 6am for an 8am session), for the Putting the Express Back into Oracle Application Express with Ajax presented by Steve Karam. I have to apologise to Steve since we met briefly for about 30 seconds at the Bloggers Evening, but I didn’t put 2 and 2 together and realise that Steve was presenting this session, apologies Steve!

Despite starting at 8am (and being the final day) the audience turnout was impressive, Steve is a very accomplished and polished presenter, I liked his presentation a lot. Ajax is an area that many people struggle with, since Javascript is not the easiest thing in the world to debug when things start to go bad, however I think Steve did a great job of showing just how much you can improve the end-user perception of your application with just a few simple steps.

Next it was Test Driven Development in the world of PL/SQL by Steven Feuerstein. This was my second time seeing Steven presenting and I have to say, that with this presentation he’s convinced me to take TDD onboard into my working practices (where I can), since it’s such a ‘logical’ thing to do to make our (developers) lifes easier in the long run. A fantastic presentation, and the TDD tool that Steven showed looked very very useful, I will be investigating that when I get back home.

Then on the way to my next session, I spotted the session on Welcome to My Nightmare: The Common Performance Errors in Oracle Databases by Michael Ault which I decided to ‘sneak’ into (actually I didn’t sneak, I just hadn’t registered for it, but luckily I managed to get in anyway). This session was quite interesting, done in a bit of a different style to some of the others I’ve been in, but still interesting to see.

For my final session of the day, indeed my final session of OpenWorld, what better way to finish than to see the rerun of Tom Kyte’s Database Worst Practices. I’d obviously already seen this session, but hey it’s Tom Kyte, plus this time around it was a much smaller room than first time around (which was huge). What can I say, other than if you ever get the chance to see Tom present then jump at the chance, you won’t regret it.

Then it was over to the It’s a Wrap party, for (yet more!) free food and drink and a chance for a final chat with some of the people I’ve met, it’s amazing how in all the crowds of people over here you still manage to ‘bump into’ (sometimes literally) people you know. I spent some time chatting with Paul Ashton of Reuters (a fellow brit who now lives in Colorado) who’s an avid Apex fan too (we were in quite a few of the same sessions through OOW). All in all a good way to finish off the whole OOW experience.

Thanks to Oracle for hosting and organising such a huge event, also thanks to everyone I met, I’ve met up with some people from the OTN forums and also people I’ve swapped emails with, I’ve also met some new people who I would have never met before, and I’ve definitely made some good friends while I’ve been here.

So….am I pleased I came? Absolutely!
Would I do it again? Definitely!
Do I need to rest my feet? Oh yes!

Openworld – Wednesday

A bit of a quieter day today (relatively speaking) sessions-wise.
First off it was Recent Enhancements in Oracle’s Cost Based Optimizer by Jonathan Lewis. I’d really looked forward to this session since I saw it listed in the OpenWorld schedule builder. I like to read the articles that Jonathan has produced in the vain hope that 0.01% of the knowledge will be absorbed by my brain (I’m still waiting on that one). His book on Cost Based Oracle Fundamentals is one of the best books I own. If there’s one mistake I made when I first started buying technical books (many years ago), it was to buy books that were ‘too simple’, if there’s one thing I like it’s having technical books that you can read and re-read and re-read again and still have more things in them that you can learn.
As I expected, Jonathans’ session was absolutely superb, I’d never heard him present before but his style and confidence were immediately apparent from the first sentence. Some of the content was very technical and not for the faint-hearted, but Jonathan presented it in a style (and with sufficient examples and description) that the majority of it was understandable (or rather seemed understandable at the time!). This one is definitely one of the presentations I’ll be looking at again once I get my OpenWorld DVD.
Of course, being a big fan of Jonathans’ work, I had to grab him for a chat afterwards he was a really nice guy.
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After lunch (a very delicious ham and cheese sandwich) it was time for Next-Generation Oracle Database Performance and Scalability: A sneak Preview. As you can guess from the title this session covered some of the features that ‘might’ be included in the next version of the database. Some of the highlights included –

  • Secure Files
  • Query results caches
  • Cache fusion
  • Enhanced Performance for Backup & Recovery
  • Enhanced native compilation

I need to read up on those features some more, since some of them look really interesting (particularly secure files).
Next up it was Recent Advances in Automatic SQL Tuning presented again by Jonathan Lewis, this was absolutely superb, I wrote down loads of little tips and snippets that I need to look through once I get back home and my brain isn’t so ‘fuzzed’. There were lots of tips here about using Enterprise Manager and also commands you can use in SQLPlus to help with your SQL Tuning. In a word, superb!

In the evening it was the Apex Meetup in the 4th Street Bar and Deli, I absolutely loved this, since it meant it meant sharing a few drinks with the team behind Application Express. apex_meet1.JPG

From left-to-right, Backrow- Joel Kallman, Jason Straub, John Scott, Steven Howard, Sitting – Marco Adelfio, Dimitri Gielis, Marc Sewtz, Doug Gault, Michael Hichwa.

The picture was taken by Raj Mattamal who is a very energetic and funny guy, we also met up with Anton Nielson and Sergio Leunissen but unfortunately they had to leave early, but it was good to be able to meet up with them.
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(Sergio Leunissen and me).

We discussed quite a few things to do with Apex as well as the Apex SIG, as well as some general ‘getting to know each other’ type of stuff that people do after they’ve had a few beers (or Margarita in some cases).
I can’t tell you just how passionate about Apex these people are (and me too!), it was very good to see the enthusiasm that Michael, Joel and the others have about the product and how they want to continue to promote it (and to have ‘our’ – the communities help in promoting it). I think that the coming year is going to be a significant one for Apex and Apex development, I’m pleased to be a part of it.
Many thanks also must go to Michael, who very (very!) generously picked up the bill at the end of the night, had I known that I might have gone for a desert too πŸ˜‰
A great night, this is what OOW is all about.

Openworld – Tuesday

Another hectic day today, started with –

“Things you think you know” by Tom Kyte
This was (as you would expect) a superb session, extremely well presented and most of the points struck chords with the audience. If you came along to this session hoping to pickup some great little tuning tips you may have left a bit dissapointed, however if you actually listened to the concepts that Tom was discussing then they were perhaps far more important than knowing about ‘undocumented feature X’. I really enjoyed this one, especially since I corrected the ‘mistake’ of the other session that Tom presented the other day and managed to get a photograph taken this time.
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If there’s one thing I picked up from this session (I even wrote it down to remind myself when I get back), it’s to read the Concepts Guide again, since it’s so long since I read it.

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Next it was to a hands on lab session about XQuery and Oracle XMLDB.

Now I’ve done a bit of work with XQuery before, but I signed up for this session so that I could learn some ‘new tricks’. Unfortunately this was probably one of the more dissapointing sessions I was at. Sorry for being critical, but hey if you don’t give truthful feedback then there’s no point giving feedback at all. We were all given our own PC’s and a handbook and told to follow the (pretty detailed) steps in the handbook to build up a sample application.

The issue was that the handbook listed the steps for connecting to a RAC installation, whereas we all had local installs of Oracle, therefore all of the URL’s published in the handbook (for connecting to Enterprise Manager etc) were wrong. Secondly, the usernames and passwords used to connect to the database were different from the ones published in the handbook. Ok, so these first two issues weren’t really huge ones, but it did mean that once I got to page 4 of the handbook and I couldn’t login I (along with many many other people) had to stick my hand-up to get some help. The biggest issue, by far, for me was that the handbook also used older versions of the software we were using (such as JDeveloper), so many of the screenshots in the handbook simply didn’t match what I was seeing on screen, which again caused problems.

Like I say, sorry to be critical, my first OpenWorld has been superb so far, but would it really have been so difficult to either update the handbook with the new screenshots, update the passwords and also the URL’s. Or failing that, just used the older version of JDeveloper so that the screenshots matched?

Anyway, next up it was Real World Performance Roundtable this was a two part session (I attended both parts). It was also extremely interesting, since it was presented by the people from Oracle who work on these areas. One of the ‘highlights’ was when Jonathan Lewis asked a question about freelists and ASM, Jonathan’s experience and knowledge about Oracle is practically legendary so I’m not sure I would have liked to have been on the receiving end of a question from him. Maybe it was a trick of the light, but I’m sure I saw the colour drain from the panels faces when Jonathan’s hand went in the air.

Final session of the day was “CERN: Building Real-World solutions with Oracle Application Express” which was presented by Giovanni Chierico and introduced by Joel Kallman. I enjoyed this session a lot, it’s always interesting to see how people use Apex and obviously CERN is a huge organisation so anyone who has any doubts about the suitability of Apex for production applications should really take note of the fact that a place like CERN is using it. Giovanni was a very good presenter and covered not only the things they liked about Apex but also some of the things they didn’t like (some balance is always good).
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(left to right, Joel Kallman, Giovanni Chierico. Picture taken by Dimitri Gielis).

After the CERN session, it was time for a quick break (and rest my weary feet) before heading to Blogger Meetup which was held at the Thirsty Bear bar (which took some finding, although typically when Dimitri stopped to ask someone directions we were about 100 feet away from it. I have to admit, I feel a bit of a ‘fraud’ going to a Bloggers meetup, since it’s only recently that I’ve started writing my blog and don’t have that much ‘content’ to it yet, especially compared to the other people who were there. I met up with a lot of people whose blogs I’ve read for quite some time, I’d already met up with Tim Hall earlier in the week and he was his usual, very friendly self and we again chatted for quite a while. I also met Mark Rittman, Eddie Awad (who is a very nice guy, very very funny too), Andrew Clark and many many more (sorry for not listing everyone). Mark Rittman has some good photos on his blog

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After we spent some time at the Blogger Meetup a few of us headed over to the Appreciation Night with Elton John, well…what can I say about this? If you were there, you’ll know exactly what I mean….if you weren’t there then there’s no way I’ll be able to describe *just* how huge and extravagant this event was. Even the sheer number of coaches that were used to ferry people between the hotels and the Cow Palace was impressive. This event was absolutely huge, I heard a few people saying there were around 28,000 people there which sounded like a lot, however once we got into the ‘main arena’ to see Elton (or rather Sir Elton) playing I could easily believe there were 28,000 people there.

The food was absolutely amazing too, I never once saw one of the ‘food stations’ (for lack of a better word) that wasn’t piled high with food, the organisation of it all was really really impressive. Free drinks and free food whenever you want it, what’s not to like?

I did try and take some pictures of Elton John, but none of them came out very well, so here’s one of Dimitri’s pictures (who I’m naming ‘Official OOW Photographer’).
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All in all, it was a fantastic day, and an amazing evening….I enjoyed it a lot.

Openworld – Monday

Well, I was far too late getting down to the Moscone to catch some of the Keynotes, so today really started for me with a session on “Oracle Application Express, Now and in the Future”. Which was good session for me for a couple of reasons, firstly (and obviously) because of my interests in Apex, secondly because lots of ‘names’ were there. The session was headed by Michael Hichwa, Marc Sewtz and Marco Adelfio and if you want to know about Apex, when these people talk you’re getting it directly ‘from the horses mouth’ as it were. It was obviously from the way they were talking about Apex that they are passionate about the product, also they *do* listen to the feedback from the Apex community about the product.

I also got to meet with Joel Kallman, which was great, since I’ve swapped lots of emails with Joel and we frequently post in the same topics in the Apex forums, so it was great to put a face to the name and meet him in person, I need to dig out the message on the forums where Joel said he’d buy the first drinks at the OOW Meetup, since he’s now trying to put the onus onto me πŸ˜‰

I should also reprimand myself here, since I met all these people and failed to get a single picture taken with them, hopefully that can be rectified at the OOW meetup (details on Dimitri Gielis’s blog).

The session itself was very interesting, they showed how to build an application using Apex (which of course I’ve done many times), but it’s still interesting to see how other people do things, also when you see someone else doing it, it drives it home just how quickly it is being done right in front of you. There were also some announcements regarding Apex 3.0, some of the most notable features are –

  • Microsoft Access Application Migration
  • Flash charting
  • XML Publisher Reporting Integration
  • AJAX WYSIWYG Drag and Drop Form Layout

I’m not going to expand too much on those points (since they could be subject to change etc), however the announcements about Flash charting and XML Publisher Reporting Integration really show that Oracle are listening to what people are saying in the forums (the current SVG charting is frequently brought up).

Then it was time for a session entitled “Building Media-Rich Business Application Using Oracle interMedia and Oracle Application Express” (can you see a ‘theme’ for most of the sessions I’ve been attended?). It was an interesting session for anyone thinking about integrating any sort of media (images, sound, video etc) into their Apex application. There were also some cool code-generation wizard tools that I’ll be investigating when I get back home. I would have liked this session to also have been a little longer so it could have gone into a bit more depth (and to see things from more of a coding perspective), however I suppose if this session had gone on longer then I would have then missed…..

….The Tom Kyte session entitled “Database Worst Practises”, yes that’s correct…it’s “Worst” practices not “Best Practices”. This was the first time I’ve heard Tom presenting, although I’ve been reading his AskTom column for years now and I’ve bought every one of his books pretty much on the day they became available. I have to say that this was an absolute Masterclass in presenting, not only did each and every slide he used strike a chord with the audience, but he presented it in a great style.
The session was an anti-presentation, meaning that everything was the exact opposite of what it should be, it was very tongue-in-cheek and Tom brought up many of the commonly recurring falsehoods and myths that seems to fill the Internet about Oracle. To give you an idea, this is one of the first slides that was used:

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If you’ve spent more than 5 minutes reading one of Tom’s books or looking at his website, you’ll appreciate exactly why that slide is meant to be tongue-in-cheek.
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I really enjoyed the session, if there’s one thing I like about the way ‘Tom does things’, it’s the way he doesn’t say ‘That is the wrong way” or ‘This is the right way’ he actually *backs up* why it’s the wrong or right way with evidence.

After the session, I met Tom outside the hall and introduced myself and had a quick chat, and yet again (overcome with awe) failed to get a picture taken, I kick myself for that again, I’m not sure if I’ll get a second chance for that one but I hope I do. I also probably failed to introduce myself properly since I should have mentioned to Tom my interests in Application Express which is an area that Tom has been involved in (if that’s not understating it!).

Then it was off to OTN Night and time for yet another apology, since Steve Howard and I played table football (is that what Americans call it?) with another two guys and since I’ve never played before I was absolutely terrible and probably a big big hindrance to Steve, challenge me to a game of pool and I might just give you a run for your money, put me in charge of ‘half a dozen little men on a stick’ and you’ll be lucky if I don’t put your eye out with the ball. There seemed to be lots going on at the OTN night, but Steve started feeling the effects of a long day and retired back to his Hotel, I only lasted about another 20 minutes before gravity started pulling down my eyelids and I started to leave to go back to my hotel. Then, just as I was leaving the hotel the OTN night was being held in I spotted Tim Hall who runs the Oracle Base website as well as his own blog. The bizarre thing is, Tim and I have never met, I’ve only seen his picture on his blog, however we were both recently photographed for the Oracle Magazine (and both blogged about how we hated our respective pictures), so I find it bizarre that amongst the 40-odd thousand people here for OOW that I bumped into Tim. I tapped him on the shoulder as he walked past (I felt like a stalker, but what the heck!), I’m not sure if he recognised me, but as soon as I started to talk (and mentioned our ‘hated picture link’) he realised who I was. We then proceeded to spend about the next 20-25 minutes chatting in the hotel lobby. Once again it’s an advert for just how good OOW is for networking, that you can tap someone on the shoulder that you don’t *really* know at all and then spend the next 25 minutes talking with them.
I got on really well with Tim, he’s a very friendly and approachable guy (I can see why he got the ACE of the Year Award), I also failed to get a picture taken with him (spotting a pattern here too?), even though I’m an ACE myself it’s still good for my ego to be photographed with other ACE’s πŸ˜‰

Lots of superb sessions tomorrow, another Tom Kyte session, an Apex session and a session by Jonathan Lewis.