APEX 5.0 Rollout

apexLast month there was a frenzy of activity when APEX 5.0 was released. I had been having a dabble with the Early Adopter for a while, but I felt the need to do a local install.

The only slight issue I had was with static files and that was down to me not RTFMing properly. :) Patrick Wolf wrote about this issue recently here.

Having not had any problems while I was playing with APEX 5.0, I started the task of upgrading all the installations at work. We don’t do any major development, just basic CRUD screens and interactive reports, so it wasn’t too high profile a task. Anyway, the upgrades went smoothly and everything is running on APEX 5.0 now. Happy days! :)

Of course, if you are doing some complicated stuff that is pivotal to your business, you probably need to be a bit more meticulous about your planning and testing than I was, but it’s pretty good news that of the 20+ installations, none had any upgrade problems. :)

I’ve played around with ORDS 3.0 before the GA release.

We currently use the Oracle HTTP Server to front our stuff for historic reasons. I guess the next move will be to implement ORDS, but I’m not sure when that will happen…

Cheers

Tim…

 

Writing Tips : How do I publicise my writing?

writingThis is quite a touchy subject for me and I’m maybe not the best person to ask.

On the one hand, I feel you should grow an audience in an organic manner. If your content is good, they will find you.

On the other hand, I’ve been doing this for so long it is relatively easy for me to get heard. If I was starting today and producing the same type of content, would you have even heard about me or would I be lost in the noise of a billion bloggers?

Here are some things I would suggest:

  • Make the title relevant. People will see it in their RSS feed or on social media and they will make a decision about whether to read it based on only that. Catchy is good, but relevant is more important!
  • Find out the blog aggregators that are available for your subject matter (OraNA for Oracle) and submit your RSS feed to them.
  • Make sure links to your RSS feeds are visible and working. RSS is not anywhere near as popular as it was, but every little helps.
  • When you write something new, post a link to it on social media. You will often have different followers on different platforms, so don’t worry about posting the same link on Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus etc. If someone decides to follow you on all networks, then it’s their fault if they feel spammed. :)
  • Put some form of share buttons on your blog. Companies like ShareThis and AddThis make it really easy. Let fans of your work publicise it for you.
  • Ignore Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) companies. The search engines change their indexing criteria constantly. What SEO companies advise today will be detrimental to your search placing tomorrow. I’ve been doing this for 15 years. Believe me, SEO is a scam! Write good content and people will find you!

Above all, be patient. It takes time and consistency to build an audience. Two blog posts are not going to make you famous, unless you’ve done something really interesting or really naughty! :)

Cheers

Tim…

UKOUG Systems Event 2015

ukougI have a bone to pick with UKOUG. I’m coming from Birmingham and I’m a lazy git, so why the heck am I on in the first slot? :) It was a 04:30 start to the day, for a train journey starting at 05:50. I could have got a later train, but it would have been busier and more importantly, more expensive… After putting the latest of my writing tips posts live and lying in the bath (sorry for the bad mental image) for a while psyching myself up for the day, it was a quick taxi ride to the station, then on to the train. The train was reasonably busy, but I had reserved a seat with a table and power socket, so I was able to use the time to write up a blog post about yesterday’s Oracle Midlands Event #9 and to do some last minute run throughs of my talk.

Since I was up in the first slot I missed the opening greeting to set up. The event was very Exadata-heavy and I was doing a virtualization talk, so I wasn’t really expecting anyone to come, but I had a pretty good crowd, which was nice. Many of the people in the room were already working with virtualization, some as users of the services, others as administrators. I don’t think there would be a lot that was particularly new to this audience, but I’m hoping they found at least something useful in there. After the session, I stood outside the room chatting to one of the guys about the issues he was currently going throught relating to Oracle licenses on VMware. It can be difficult, especially when there seem to be a lot of people out there actively trying to throw a you bum steer. My statement on this  matter is always, only ever deal with Oracle Licensing Management Services directly, not sales people, which working this stuff out and make sure you have everything down on paper before you start!

I only managed to catch the tail end of “Oracle Exadata Meets Elastic Configurations” by Svetoslav Gyurov so I will have to assume it was totally awesome! I love you Sve! :)

redstacktechDuring the session changeover, I got to speak to some of the folks on the Red Stack Technology booth. I popped by to say thank you for taking over the sponsorship of the Oracle Midlands events. They were also a sponsor of the UKOUG Systems Event itself, so a double thank you was in order. :)

Next up was “Oracle Exadata & Database Memory” by Frits Hoogland. Exadata is “posh-RAC”. Lots of stuff about RAC databases are also common to singe instance Oracle databases. As a result, this sesison was actually relevant to single instance, RAC and Exadata. Frits is one of those deep-dive guys, but the session had enough top-level and deep-dive content to appeal to all tastes. I really enjoyed it.

Next up was Roger MacNicol speaking about “Oracle Big Data SQL”. I had seen a bunch of this information last year at Oracle OpenWorld, but it also included some architectural information that was new to me. I was unaware of the architectural similarities between implementing smart scans in Exadata storage cells and getting Oracle to talk to Hive and HDFS. Very interesting!

I went to see “Migrating To Exadata The Easy Way” by Martin Bach because I wanted to watch him present. I don’t see working on Exadata in my future, so that aspect of the talk was not my focus. As with Frits’ session earlier, most of the content was relevant to Non-Exadata and Non-RAC environments too, so there was something for everyone here. Migration to new hardware and operating systems, no matter what the kit, comes with a similar set of issues and constraints. It also sparked some interesting discussions after the session, which meant I missed Jason Arneil‘s session on “Engineering DBaaS At Large Scale”. :( Hopefully I’ll get to see that at UKOUG Tech15?

There was a panel session at end the day. It is fatal to ask me to get involved in these things as I have an opinion on everything and find it impossible to keep my gob shut! I did warn them! :)

I spent much of the social event talking to @DBASushi about Enterprise Manager Cloud Control. I made some comments about Cloud Control in the panel session, which he wanted me to clarify. I’ve said before, I think all organisations should use Cloud Control, but there are some things about it I find infuriating, totally unintuitive and bloaty. During the discussion it became aparrent that some of my issues are because I need to RTFM a bit, but others are (in my opinion) problems with the user experience (UX) of the product. No offence to anyone involved, but some parts feel beautifully crafted, while other parts feel slapped together.

From there is was a quick goodbye, then off to Euston to catch my train home. Once again, a reserved seat with a table and power socket. Happy days!

Thanks to UKOUG for letting me come out to play, as well as all the attendees, presenters and UKOUG staff I talked to. Also thanks to the Oracle ACE Program for continuing to let me fly the flag.

Cheers

Tim…

Writing Tips : Should I write off-topic posts?

writingI’m a Jedi master at writing off-topic posts! This blog started life as an Oracle blog, but now I just write reviews of Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey. :)

The simple answer is you should do what you are happy with. I had been writing on my website for 5+ years before I started this blog. When I started the blog, I thought it would be technical. It quickly became apparent that the Oracle content was better suited to my website and the blog became a series of opinions, rants, movie reviews and book reviews. That’s why I changed the tag line to, “Oracle related rants (and lots of off-topic stuff)”.

I know in the early days that kind-of frustrated a lot of people. I used to receive negative emails and comments about it all the time. That doesn’t happen much these days because most readers seem to have become accustomed to my stance of “Oracle content goes on the website. Bullshit goes on the blog.” I’m sure some people would say bullshit goes on both. :)

Blogging platforms allow you to categorise and tag your content. I would suggest you make use of that so if someone is really irritated by off topic posts, they can avoid them.

Speaking for myself, I like to read the off-topic posts written by people I follow. It gives me some insight into the person and makes me feel connected. If I actually meet them in person, I feel almost like I know them already. It’s kind-of freaky! :)

If you find yourself consistently writing about a completely different subject, you might want to consider starting up a new blog. I’ve written some MySQL and SQL Server articles and put them on oracle-base.com, but if I ever start doing more of them, I would probably branch them off into a separate blog. It’s not necessary, but would seem a little cleaner to me.

Cheers

Tim…

Oracle Midlands : Event #9

oracle-midlandsThe traffic on the way to Oracle Midlands Event #9 was a complete nightmare! There are a bunch of roadworks around the city that are making the traffic movement really problematic at the moment. Added to that, the always slow M6 was causing tailbacks along the Aston Express Way into the city. The traffic islands were all blocked, with people blocking exits and jumping red lights in a desperate attempt to get on them. Fortunately I started in plenty of time so I arrived with a few minutes to spare. Phew!

First up was Joel Goodman speaking about “Oracle Distributed Transactions”. This was actually quite a scary talk because it showed me both how much I don’t know and how much I’ve forgotten over the years. I’m getting old! There were a few raised eyebrows when he discussed the automatic and manual recovery of in-doubt transactions. I think a few people will be reviewing their recovery procedures. :) Joel is always good value as a presenter and as a walking Oracle encyclopedia!

The break, which included samosas and a prize draw, gave me the opportunity to chat to a few people, including @Kelloggs_ville. We had spoken at the start of the event, but in true Tim Hall style, I hadn’t made the connection between the real person and the Twitter picture. :) Don Stieler knows my skills in this respect. :)

Next up was Richard Harrison, a regular Oracle Midlands attendee and a previous “Lightning Talk” speaker. His session was on “Data Pump Tips & Tricks”. This talk really highlights to me the value of watching sessions on stuff you already know. Everyone has a different experience of the Oracle product set. Everyone has had to try and solve different problems using it. As a result, everyone is capable of putting a unique spin on the subject. I came away with a bunch of stuff I hadn’t considered before, which I will probably go back and retro-fit into some of my articles. Judging by the number of people scribbling away, I think other people were of a similar mind. :) Richard’s session was predominantly demo-based, a man after my own heart. :) I think this was Richard’s first full-length presentation and I’m hoping this will be the first of many!

I’m really getting a kick out of seeing how Oracle Midlands develops. Mike has done a truly amazing job of lining up great speakers and I feel like the group of attendees are bonding more with each event. I came away from the event feeling really hyper and enthusiastic about Oracle. It’s good to be reminded how much more there is to learn and to feel connected to other Oracle geeks. :)

Mike’s already got the speakers for the next couple of events lined up. The next one is by some new kid on the block called Jonathan Lewis. :) The one after is by Christian Antognini. Amazing!
redstacktechBig thanks to Mike for keeping this train rolling. Thanks to everyone who keeps turning up and showing their support. This stuff can only happen if you keep coming! Thanks to the speakers for taking the time out to come and educate us. Big thanks also to Red Stack Technology (my new favourite company :) ) for sponsoring the event, so it can remain free! I’ll be seeing some of you folks at the UKOUG Systems Event later today! :)

See you soon!

Cheers

Tim…

Writing Tips : Backfill

writingI encouraged one of my former colleagues to start writing a blog (SnapDBA). He had lots of notes he had built up over the years, so he started to transfer some of them to his blog and described these notes as “backfill”. He used the term to indicate it was not a particularly new subject, but he wanted to write about it anyway.

Especially when you become more popular, it is easy to get a bit paranoid about the content you produce. If you write an article on an old subject, you wonder if people will think you’ve only just discovered it. It’s stupid to think that people really care about that, but ego is a powerful thing. :) The concept of putting out backfill articles liberates you from that paranoia. Remember, writing is for your personal development, not all about trying to become the new Tom Kyte.

I often write articles on quite old subjects, which are not really deserving of being promoted to the front page of my website and I won’t write a blog post about their release or push them out on social media. Here are some scenarios where this happens for me:

  • I’m looking at the enhancements in a new release and I notice I’ve never written about that subject before. I may write a backfill article on the original subject, then write the article on the new enhancements. I will often write blog about the release of the new enhancements article, but I will kind-of ignore the backfill article. It’s linked from the enhancements article, so if people are interested they can read it, but I’m not going to make a big song and dance about a new article on an Oracle 10g feature. :)
  • While reading through the documentation I notice a feature I have never heard of before and assume it is a new feature. After a quick check I realise it was introduced in a previous release, so I write the backfill article to cover it.
  • Someone asks me a question and I write the answer as an article. If the content of the article is not on a particularly new or interesting (to me) subject, I will not promote it as a new article.

I like writing backfill articles and I write a lot of them. I would say somewhere in the region of 20-40% of my writing is either backfill or revising old articles to bring them up to date with my current understanding. Over the last few weeks you might have noticed very little in the way of new content hitting the website and blog. In fact, I’ve been really quite productive, but I’ve not been writing new and sexy stuff. I’ve been writing backfill articles that have been prompted by stuff going on at work.

I guess the real solution to this is try not to care what other people think, but if you are a “sensitive type” like me, just write it as a backfill article and don’t tell anyone about it. :) If you are using a CMS, like WordPress, you can always put an older date on it (like a month old) so the RSS aggregators won’t pick it up as a new post.

Cheers

Tim…

Approaching a car park barrier : What it says about you!

parking-barrierWhich of these describes you?

Option 1:

  1. Drive up to the barrier.
  2. Open the car window.
  3. Rummage through your bag or glove compartment looking for your parking pass.
  4. Swipe your pass.
  5. Put your card away. Probably in a random place each time.
  6. Pull away from the barrier.

Option 2:

  1. Approach the barrier with your card in hand and the car window already open.
  2. Swipe the card immediately.
  3. Pull away, almost without stopping because you were so well prepared.

If you most closely match “Option 1″, please don’t think about a career in I.T. The fact you find it acceptable to approach any task in life in this way says to me you are not what this industry needs! Probably not what the human race needs!

Cheers

Tim… (Suffering from “barrier rage” this morning!)

Writing Tips : How often should I write?

writingThe true answer to this is to write as (in)frequently as you want, but in my motivation post I suggested writing little and often. I think this is really important when you first start. Like anything, writing takes practice. It takes a while to get into the right head-space and even longer until you are happy with the way you express yourself. I imagine that is even worse if you are trying to writing in a second language.

In addition to what I said in the motivation post, there are a couple of things to consider.

If you are in the mood, keep going. Some days it just really feels natural and you feel happy with the content you are producing. On those days, don’t put an artificial limit on yourself. Let it flow.

Even if you are writing regularly, don’t be too quick to hit that publish button. Dumping 20 blog posts on the world will probably result in many of them being overlooked by your “loyal” followers. Having a few “in reserve” is also a pretty good idea for those times when you really can’t be bothered. :) Of course, time-critical posts like, “X has just been released and it’s [amazing|rubbish]!”, have a limited shelf life. :)

As an example of these two points, this series of posts was conceived and written in a single session at the computer. Rather than banging them out, I planned to sit on them for a week and re-read them a few times, then start to release them on a daily basis.

As I said in the motivation post, the world doesn’t care how often you hit the publish button. :)

Cheers

Tim…

Roll up! Roll up! This week’s events!

Here’s a quick reminder of a couple of events happening this week.

On Tuesday evening it’s Oracle Midlands Event #9 in Birmingham. First up is Joel Goodman, who is practically a walking Oracle Encyclopaedia, speaking about “Oracle Distributed Transactions”. Next up is Richard Harrison, a regular Oracle Midlands attendee and returning speaker, this time presenting about “Data Pump Tips & Tricks”. It’s going to be a good evening, so please come out and show your support! It’s sponsored by Red Stack Technology, so it’s free!

On Wednesday it is the UKOUG Systems Event. I’m in the first slot, so it’s going to be an extremely early train ride for me. There is packed agenda, so I’m sure there is something for everyone involved in the systems side of things!

Hopefully I’ll get to see some of you folks at these events!

Cheers

Tim…

Writing Tips : Should I go back and rewrite/revise/remove old posts?

writingThe answer to this is very much dependent on the content and context of the material. If you have said something really bad in a legal sense, then you should definitely consider deleting it, or deal with the consequences. Assuming we are not talking about those naked pictures of you at a stag/hen party, what do I think?

I do rewrite old articles if I’m sufficiently motivated by a drastic change in my understanding of the subject. The articles on my website are more fact-based, so if there is incorrect information, it should be revised. I tend to write version-specific articles, so I don’t usually add features to old articles, but write a new features article, then link the articles in a chain. That prevents an article becoming massive over time, while still clearly showing the progression of the feature set for those that care about more than the basics.

My blog posts are more opinion than fact, so I am less inclined to revise them. If my opinion alters, I prefer to write a new post discussing my current opinion and why I changed my mind, with forward and back links between the posts. I think this is much more informative for readers, as they can see how you’ve developed over time. There is little value in trying to rewrite history. :)

I remember having a conversation with Chris Muir about this a long time ago and he was very much of the opinion that a blog post is a point in time snapshot of your opinion and thoughts, so it shouldn’t be retrospectively changed. His words have obviously influenced my opinion in this matter. :)

Ultimately, the Way Back Machine will reveal that terrible secret (you thought Buffer Cache Hit Ratios were a great way to tune a database) and you will be exposed. :)

Cheers

Tim…