Monthly Archives: November 2007

Preparing for UKOUG and Narcoleptic Laptop

Well it seems like I’ve just unpacked my case from OpenWorld and now it’s time to almost start getting ready for UKOUG.

It will be nice to not have a long transatlantic flight this time, although the last time I drove down to Birmingham I seem to remember it took a lot longer than I expected it to, so perhaps I shouldn’t tempt fate just yet.

I blogged a while ago about the APEX sessions at UKOUG, I’m very impressed that even though UKOUG is a much smaller event than OpenWorld, APEX is still going to be very well represented and once again it will be a good opportunity to meet up with people whose names I seem frequently in the APEX forums and blogs that I read.

So, whilst I won’t be suffering from jetlag this time unfortunately my laptop seems to. It has recently started to display signs of narcolepsy (seriously, type ‘narcoleptic macbook’ into Google and you’ll see I’m not the only one). Since I’m presenting at UKOUG it should lead to an interesting experience to see if I can get through the presentation without my laptop deciding that it needs to take a nap.

Somehow laptops (and cars!) always seem to know to pick the time when you need them most to start failing…

Application Express 3.1 just went public (evaluation)

If you were at Oracle Openworld and saw the APEX 3.1 demo in the booths then you’ll definitely want to try it out yourself too, if you weren’t at OOW then trust me, you’ll definitely want to try it out anyway, some of the new features are just awesome (in the common day sense of the word anyway).

Pop along to the registration page and you can sign up for an account on the 3.1 evaluation instance, but make sure that you use the feedback application to let the Oracle folks know of any issues that you find (that is the point of the evaluation after all!).

Some of the new features in 3.1 are (taken from the Statement of Direction) –

  • Interactive reporting region types which natively integrate Web 2.0 features to filter, break, sort data, etc.
  • Improved PDF report layout
  • Enhanced print attributes allowing for more control of PDF document structures
  • Optional runtime-only installation, which will install the minimum number of database objects and grant the minimum number of privileges to run Application Express applications in a production environment
  • PL/SQL API to manage a runtime installation of Application Express
  • Documented and supported Application Express JavaScript libraries
  • Improved calendar region type supporting AJAX requests
  • New PL/SQL API to send attachments in e-mail
  • Enhanced integration with Oracle SQL Developer for MS Access to Application Express migration

Now, let’s just see how long it is before someone posts in the APEX forum to ask when 4.0 will be ready 😉

Post OOW – Decompression Day

Like last year, I decided to spend an extra day in San Francisco before heading home, it’s good to unwind from all that OOW hecticness before catching that oh-so-long flight home.

I caught up with Dimitri, Patrick Wolf and Carl Backstrom for breakfast in the diner next door to the King George hotel, if you ever find yourself in there I have to recommend the Eggs Benedict, absolutely gorgeous.

We all had a good old chat and then it was time for Patrick to catch his flight home, so afterwards Carl very kindly showed Dimitri and me some of the sights of San Francisco (since he lived here for a while). I’ve been to San Francisco a few times before, but I have to say Carls ‘tour guide’ experience is highly recommended! He showed us some things that you wouldn’t probably find in most tourist guides (no, not *those* sort of things).

We also wound up heading over to the Vesuvio’s Bar (a favourite hang-out of Jack Kerouac) and it’s a really nice place to grab a couple of beers on the top floor and look at the world rolling by outside.

Carl then took us to what he said was the best chinese food place in San Francisco (high praise indeed), but he forewarned us that whilst the food was great, not to expect overly friendly service. The place was called Nan King and I have to say I’ve never eaten such good chinese food before and probably never will again (until next years OOW that is!), the service was pretty much as Carl described it, very much ‘come in…sit down…order…eat…pay…leave’, no time for small-talk with the staff, but the food was absolutely superb. Gotta thank Carl again for taking us there, it was one of the good memories I’ll take back from San Francisco.

I didn’t take any pictures of the place or the food, but while we were there Carl sent some pics to his family to make them jealous, literally just a few seconds after sending the pics, he was getting replies from his friends and family, *that* is how good the food is.

After Carl had to leave to catch his flight, Dimitri and I walked off some of the food, did a bit more sight-seeing and shopping then feeling desperate in need of some coffee and a snack we headed over to the Cheesecake Factory and overloaded ourselves once again with american sized portions of sugar and caffeine..just what we needed as our energy was starting to flag again.

By then it was time to head back to the hotels, to grab some beers in the bar, chat about the whole OOW experience and to discuss some business plans and ideas we had while we were over here.

Tomorrow…the long flight awaits…let’s see if we can grab 4 seats each again like we did on the way out, although given the coverage on the news at the moment about how many people are travelling for Thanksgiving, I’m expecting the airport to be a busy place (even if the flight back home isn’t).

p.s. full credit for the ‘decompression day’ title goes to Carl, he said that phrase and I thought it was a great way to summarise just how we all felt after being immersed in the whole ‘OOW’ for the last few days.

OOW07 – Day 5

Most of the morning (woke up at 4:30am today), was spent polishing my presentation and live demos for session in the afternoon.

Around lunch time it was time to wander down to the Moscone to catch Tony Jedlinski’s “Mastering Application Express Email” session, which was interesting and there were a lot of question from people who obviously didn’t know that this feature was available in Application Express. Tony also is a much better judge of timing than I was, since he finished spot on time, so I still felt guilty about overrunning my slot earlier in the week since this time it was my turn to follow him and since he finished perfectly on time allowing me enough time to setup in time to start.

Then it was time for me to present my final session, it was a tough-gig as they say, since not only was I on at exactly the same time as Dimitri, who was presenting on advanced PDF printing, but we were also presenting one of the last sessions on the last day, the day after the appreciation event (i.e. people were tired, hung-over, and thinking of the travel home).

I took my camera to take a picture of the audience, but right when I went to take a picture the camera shut down with a ‘no battery’ warning…at this point I thought perhaps it was an omen that things were about to start going downhill.
The room was pretty full (around 80+ people I think) and I didn’t see anyone fall asleep, which is always a good sign!

It’s difficult to tell (or rather I find it difficult) whether you’re pitching the presentation at the right level, if you make it too technical and advanced, you lose a lot of the audience, if you pitch it too low and basic, you lose the other part of the audience. I’d set myself a bit of a challenge again since I added extra material to this presentation because I wanted to show 4 different techniques that you can use to really increase the performance and scalability of your APEX applications. Fortunately I finished about 5 or 6 minutes before time was up and I also managed to squeeze in some Q&A.

There are no feedback forms at Openworld, so I won’t get to find out what the audience thought of the presentation, which personally I like to do, for me the worst thing would be if I walked out thinking I’d done a good job, but the audience thought I’d done a bad job. Anyway, on the sliding scale of presenting, I think this one went pretty well judging by the comments I got at the end.

It can be very nerve-wracking to put yourself in the position of standing up infront of nearly 100 people and talking pretty much non-stop for an hour, but it’s also incredibly rewarding and you get a good feeling afterwards (although I have to admit I definitely feel the post-adrenaline dump too).

Afterwards, we headed over to the 4th Street Bar & Grill for a post-OOW drink with Carl Backstrom, David Peake and Patrick Wolf. Although we got parted in the crowds, and when Dimitri and I walked into the bar we spotted Doug Burns sitting with Chris Muir and we joined them for a well-earned beer (sorry David, Patrick and Carl, we weren’t ignoring you, we just got waylaid). Pretty soon we were joined by Laurent Schneider, Tim Hall, Steve Bisson and some others (sorry my memory for names gets worse with age!).

I’d left my camera back at the hotel, but Dimitri has some pictures over on his blog.

We all then wandered over to the final wrap-up event at the Yerba Buena, which meant more free food and alcohol and chats about Oracle and life-in-general.

After the wrap-up party we were wandering up to another bar, but I wanted to drop off my laptop case before I went, a fatal mistake, as I ended up crashing back at the hotel, a combination of the alcohol, tiredness and the adrenaline-dump hitting me all at once.

All in all, a very nice end of the day.

OOW07 – Day 4

I had a sleep in this morning…5:15am, perhaps the jetlag is finally wearing off.

It was a bit of a lazy start to the day, catching up with some work before heading to the Keynote speech by Michael Dell, followed by Larry Ellison. I actually thought the speech by Michael Dell wasn’t too bad, in terms of it wasn’t a hard sales selling type of presentation and Michael Dell is a pretty confident presenter.

What surprised me was that during the speech by Larry, at one point about 200 (or perhaps more) people left, which seemed a bit bizarre to me. They had come to Oracle OpenWorld, where everything revolves around Oracle and they walk out during the speech by Larry. I really did wonder where else they had to go that was more important? A few people leaving I could understand, but it was a very large number of people…weird. Even if his speech had been terrible (it wasn’t), I would have stayed through it all just because I’d want to hear what was said.

One thing I did think was good was that Larry takes an open-floor Q&A session at the end of his speech, which is pretty brave when you consider he could easily duck out of it since nobody would really expect him to do it. There was one pretty strange question where the person seemed to be under the illusion that whenever they bought something from Microsoft that the money (or some of it) went to charity (I’m paraphrasing the question), but Larry quickly put the guy right on that one (to the merriment of the audience).

Then I raced over to a session by Barry McGillin on Migration using SQL Developer, it was a good presentation showing just how powerful SQL Developer is becoming (or rather getting more and more powerful all the time). I think we need more sessions like this where people see live demos of an end-to-end process (in this case how easy it is to migrate data from a SQL Server database to Oracle in minutes).

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Tonight was the BIG Appreciation party over at the Cow Palace, with Billy Joel, Lenny Kravitz and Stevie Nicks. Dimitri and I were walking out of the Hilton to catch the coach when we bumped into Doug Burns who had been queueing up for the coach at the front of the Hilton until we pointed out the coach was probably around the corner (don’t worry Doug…we’ll put that one down to Jetlag).

The queue for the coach was horrendous, but luckily as we walked past I was literally grabbed by David Peake who was already in the queue with the other Oracle APEX developers and they very kindly let us join them at the head of the queue. David is definitely the ‘man to know’ as he is probably the only person at Openworld who was able to get some extra tickets for the event, I’m not sure exactly what he had to to do get those tickets, but I’m guessing some sort of pact with the Devil wouldn’t be far off the mark.

Having been at the Appreciation Event last year (when Elton John was starring), I was a bit more prepared for the extravagance this year, but it’s still extremely impressive just how much free food and drink there is, especially the quality of the food (i.e. it would be so easy to do cheap mass catered).

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The cow palace is such a big place you don’t really get a feel for how many people are there until you enter the main arena, and then you get to see just how many people are attending the Openworld event (even though all of them aren’t in the main arena there are still people everywhere you look).

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I don’t know that many Billy Joel songs, but I have to admit he put on a pretty good show (maybe not my kind of music, but he certainly had most of the crowd bopping along).

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I managed to bump into Chris Muir whom I’ve had a couple of forum/blog spats with in the past due to a difference in opinion between development environments, however I have to say that Chris is a really nice guy to chat to and we quickly buried the hatchet and had a good old chat.

Dimitri and I wandered around a bit, catching some of Lenny Kravitz and Stevie Nicks, I thought that I’d probably enjoy Lenny more than Billy Joel, but maybe I caught Lenny at a bad point as some of his music seemed a bit ‘self-indulgent’ (hard to describe really…but it was more like he was playing for himself rather than the audience…to me anyway).

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Then, after perhaps one beer too many, it was time to head back since tomorrow was my final presentation…

OOW07 – Day 3

I’m losing track of the days now, they’re all merging into one long jet-lagged day. Anyway, it’s tuesday and once again I woke up around 4am.
I almost missed the big presentation from Tom Kyte on “How do you know what you know”, I almost missed it because I was convinced it was on tomorrow, but by sheer chance I checked the schedule online and spotted that it was due to start in 20 minutes. Fortunately it was in the Hilton so I only had to race downstairs to make it in time.

The room was absolutely full by the time Tom started and I wouldn’t like to guess how many people were there but it was a *lot*. I read later on Tom’s blog that he still gets nervous when presenting to that many people, which is completely understandable, I just thought that he had done it so many times now that it was second nature to him. So, as a relatively new presenter at these sort of events, I’m not sure if I find the fact that even people like Tom still get nervous as a good thing or a bad thing!

Tom, as always, gave an absolutely superb presentation and you really can listen to him for a long time, no matter when he’s talking about something technical, or something less technical (as this presentation was).

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After some quick breakfast, it was time for another APEX session, this time it was “Steal the Show with Oracle Application Express” by Bill Holtzman. This was another very full session, with the room filled to capacity. Bill discussed the application he implemented for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association and showed some of the techniques and tips he learned along the way. It’s always good to hear, not only technical details, but also the business focused side of things in terms of how someone was able to ‘sell’ APEX as a solution for their particular needs.

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I’ve seen Bill posting on the APEX forums for a while now, so it was good to meet him in person and had some time to chat with him during a walk down from the Hilton to the Moscone later on and he’s a nice guy to talk to, very friendly (a common theme amongst most APEX developers!).

After lunch it was time Carl Backstrom to present his eagerly anticipated “Advanced Oracle Application Express: Building Web 2.0 Applications”, this was definitely a ‘hot presentation’ as Carl was going to show some of the ultra-cool APEX 3.1 features. Unfortunately the gremlins were out in force today and Carl suffered a nightmare with the connection of his laptop to the projector and ended up having to use another laptop, which meant he couldn’t show his live demos, but worse than that the ‘borrowed laptop’ kept shutting down at the wrong moment.

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Don’t beat yourself up though Carl, you recovered the situation very well and the presentation (albeit without demos) was very impressive. Carl covered how to debug your AJAX and JavaScript problems with a nice simple 4 step process and also covered where APEX was heading in terms of the cool JavaScript and AJAX functionality.

Next it was time for the “Oracle Application Express: Creating Advanced PDF Reports” hands-on lab session, hosted by Marc Sewtz, Marco Adelfio, David Peake and some others, this one was again packed out. I heard someone say that over 200 people had registered for around 100 places, so it was a very popular one (it’s always good to do the hands-on stuff since you get a better understanding of how things work). There was a slight hiccup at one spot, but as usual it was down to some Microsoft VB/ActiveX problem!

Later on I caught the next Tom Kyte presentation on “The Top 10 – No 11 – New Features of Oracle Database 11g”. Of course, this presentation was packed out as well and Tom covered 11 different features that make 11g a ‘must have’. Features ranged from caching through to compression. Despite the fact that Tom announced right at the beginning that the list was not in any particular order, I heard someone behind me saying that they disagreed with the order he was showing them in (do some people just not *listen* any more?).

I had planned on going to the Blogger Meetup at the Thirsty Bear, in fact I’d been looking forward to it for a while, but unfortunately I had some work to do which I figured would take about 30 minutes to do, but 3 hours later I was still working on it, so unfortunately didn’t make it to the meetup, so apologies to everyone for not making it, but next year I’ll plan better!

APEX – Second Chance to see Carl Backstrom

Just a quick post to say that due to ‘technical difficulties’ (or sods law as it’s more commonly known) Carl Backstrom was unable to show his live demos in his “Advanced Oracle APEX: Building Web 2.0” presentation today, however Carl is going to be doing a repeat of the session as part of the Unconference track.

So, come along to:

3rd floor, Overlook 2 (next to the OTN lounge) at 02:00 PM, wednesday.

and you will see some *really* cool 3.1 features, if you’re using APEX you will definitely not want to miss this, if you’re not using APEX you should *really* see this. Basically if you’re at Oracle Openworld, you will want to see this!