WordPress 5.0

Especially if you are self-hosting WordPress, you might have noticed that WordPress 5.0 has been born.

I’m not a WordPress aficionado, so I don’t really pay much attention to most of the WordPress new features, but something you can’t avoid is the new editor. It’s completely different.

The new editor has been available for some time for the previous WordPress version as the “Gutenburg Plugin”. The dashboard has been encouraging you to try it for ages. Once you get to WordPress 5.0 you can switch back to the original editor using the “Classic Editor” plugin, that will allegedly be supported until 2021.

What are/were my my first impressions? I previously tried the Gutenberg plugin and pretty much hated it, and switched back right away. 🙂 Now it is the main editor I’m going to try and stick with it.

I think the first thing that might freak you out is the idea of blocks. At first it seems really odd, as it implied to me I’ve got to add a new block every time I want a new paragraph. Not so! You just type and it figures out the block thing out for you. Type “return” and you start a new block. I think I’m probably guilty of over-thinking a lot of this stuff, rather than going with the flow and just seeing what happens.

I find it interesting how in some aspects of my life I’m quick to embrace change, like in the Oracle world, but in other parts of my life changes cause me problems. I think it probably comes down to what I’m interested in. I’m just not interested in blogging tools. I’m interested in blogging itself.

I’m also acutely aware that I often resist change, then a couple of weeks down the line I can barely remember a time before the change. I’m pretty sure that will be the case here. Today it took me a few minutes to figure out how to put that WordPress logo in the top-left of this post, whereas previously it took a second. I think it’s actually easier now and more WYSIWYG than it was before, but when it’s different, it feels wrong. 🙂

So that’s it. Give it a go and see what you think!

Cheers

Tim…

PS. I expect a whole bunch of updates to come in the next few weeks as they discover all the bugs and security holes they’ve put into the new version. 🙂

UKOUG Tech18 : Day 3

The first session of the day for me was Alex Nuijten with “and from the chaos comes the perfect APEX application”. This session was focused on the organisation and structure of APEX applications. You could describe it as #SmartDB or #HardShell I guess. The emphasis was on a functional API layer, with APEX used as a skin over that API layer. I share this opinion, but Alex takes it further than me, and in a more structured manner. He was having some problems with the screen blinking, but he’s a pro and took it in his stride. 🙂

Next up was Amy Simpson-Grange with “Robotic Process Automation”. This was Amy’s first technical presentation, but you would never know it. There were some problems with the screen at the start of the session, and I’m sure she was freaking out inside, but she shrugged it off and did a great job switching between laptops. I’ve not really been involved in this type of automation before, so it was a learning experience for me, with a few light-bulb moments along the way. The content was great and the delivery was so relaxed and natural. I really hope she keeps on doing tech conferences in future!

After that I followed some of the analytic folks into a session by Abi Giles-Haigh called, “Open Source & Oracle Complementing not Competing”, which was focused on the AI, Machine Learning and Deep Learning space. I freely admit to being clueless about this area, and Brendan seemed surprised to see me there. 🙂 I was kind-of expecting to be totally lost, but Abi did a good job of making it noob-friendly for me, as well as giving the pros something to bicker over. 🙂

Continuing the theme of watching stuff I knew nothing about, I went to Lonneke Dikmans presenting an “Introduction to Blockchain for Developers”. Over the years I’ve gained my first insights into the worlds of SOA, microservices and then serverless from Lonneke, and here I am learning about blockchain at one of her sessions. I wonder what next year will bring. 🙂

Next up in the same room was Roel Hartman with “Docker for Database Developers”. I’ve seen a number of Docker presentations for DBAs and developers, including my own, and they all bring something different to the table that make you think. I guess so much depends on your area of interest and the use cases you have in mind, as that will direct your attention. A hardcore DBA will see things differently to a developer, and a generalist like me will probably sit somewhere between the two. 🙂 It’s good to see things from a few angles, as it gives you a more rounded perspective.

From there I tagged along with Dawn and met up with a few folks at a local hotel bar for a quick drink before heading off to get the train home. I got a table on the train, but disappointingly there was no wifi, so I had to write this blog post in a text editor, to post later. 🙂

Me looking pretty in Machu Picchu, Peru, wearing a Chile hat. Photo taken by Debra Lilley a few minutes before I was hospitalised. 🙂

So that’s the last conference of the year for me! Thanks to everyone at UKOUG for making the event happen and inviting me to speak. Thanks to the attendees and speakers who came along and made the event what it is. Thanks also to all last year’s attendees who filled in the speaker evaluations, that resulted in me getting the “Prettiest Speaker Ever” award this year! To this year’s attendees, please fill out the evaluations. It gives UKOUG feedback that helps with speaker selection in future, and it’s a nice pat on the back for the speakers if they get a prize. Finally, thanks to the Oracle ACE Program and the Oracle Groundbreaker Ambassadors for letting me continue to fly the flag.

Cheers

Tim…

PS. Previous posts in this series.

UKOUG Tech18 : Day 2

Day 2 started at 07:00. I hadn’t slept that great, so when the alarm went off I was thinking it would have been nice to stay in bed a little longer…

I got to the conference venue at about 08:00 and went straight to the “Women in IT – What has Changed?” session. Debra Lilley introduced the session and the speakers, then it was on to Daya Haines Haddock and Amy Simpson-Grange telling their stories and speaking about their experiences and inspiration. Both were super-positive people and really inspirational. It was great to hear Amy is involved at the grass roots level at schools and colleges, spreading positive messages, letting people know they can be themselves and still succeed. The overriding message of the session was “Be brave. Be yourself. Take on challenges!” A good lesson for everyone.

I kind-of got lost for a while, chatting and catching up on the blog.

The next session I went to see was “Identifying Performance Problems in a Multitenant Environment” by Christian Antognini. It’s good to hear his thoughts on his approach and he pointed out a couple of things I had missed in the docs, so I’ve got them on my list to check out. 🙂

Pretty soon it was time for my session called DBA Does Docker. It’s a real struggle to get this done in 45 minutes and I failed again. 🙂 Nobody was following on from me, so I didn’t ruin the next speakers life. I hope people found it useful.

I spent some time chatting to Pete Finnigan about life, the universe and everything. That was followed by his session called “User Rights & Least Privilege”. I would like to say my systems don’t suffer from loads of the stuff he mentioned, but… It’s always good to go to Pete’s sessions and remind myself I need to try harder…

After that it was Jeff Smith with “Oracle SQL Developer – Everything you Need to know About Tuning”. Not surprisingly, this was a tour of the features available in SQL Developer that relate to performance tuning. There’s a lot in there these days! 🙂

After Jeff’s session I bumped into Amy Simpson-Grange and had a total fanboy moment over her talk in the morning.

I went to my hotel to drop off my bag, then went back to the venue for the social event. Carbs! I chatted to a bunch of people, who kind-of provided counselling for me. Thanks folks! Then it was back to the hotel to crash.

Cheers

Tim…

UKOUG Tech18 : Day 1

Day 1 started at 05:00. Normally I start trips with a 30 minute taxi ride to the airport, leaving about 2.5 hours before the flight. Today I left the house 30 minutes before my train was due to depart. Not needing that 2 hour buffer makes a big difference.

I had upgraded to first class, a whopping £10 extra, to get a set with a table and wifi. The wifi was a little slow and it restricted a whole bunch of sites, but I was still able to do some stuff. I got an Uber from the station to the venue. The driver was playing The Prodigy and Nirvana. Awesome.

On exiting the taxi I tweaked my back. I tried to put my coat into my case and noticed it was locked, and I couldn’t remember the combination. What a surprise. I’m at a conference and things are going wrong… 🙂

The first session of the day for me was “Using Vagrant to Build, Test & Debug Ansible Scripts Easily” by Martin Bach. Followers of the blog know I’m a meddler with Vagrant and I’m an Ansible wannabe.  Martin was extolling the virtues of reliable and repeatable builds, which I’m all for. 🙂

Next up was the keynote, which started with Martin Widlake doing the introduction to the event, and announcing the speaker awards based on last years evaluations.

Big shout out to all the winners in all the categories.

This year I picked up my third UKOUG speaker award, which means you are given the “Lifetime Achievement Award” and you are not included in “the race” in future years. I join an illustrious list of people who’ve been told to “get out and don’t come back!” 🙂

Later on I had to pick up my award and get a photo opportunity. Thanks to everyone who filled in the speaker evaluations last year. It always surprises me when this type of thing happens, especially when I think how far I’ve come over the last 10 years of presenting. I still consider myself a “nervous speaker” and I watch other people present and think I’ve still got a lot to learn about presenting.

Next up was the “Exadata – Roundtable Discussion with Development” hosted by Gurmeet Goindi. I don’t work on Exadata, but I like to keep my ear to the ground, and get invited to a meetup later of course. 🙂

After that I got lost in a whole bunch of conversations with a variety of people. I could lose a day doing this.

The next session I went to was “How Autonomous is the Oracle Autonomous Data Warehouse?” by Christian Antognini and Dani Schnider. I have to admit I was a little distracted during this talk because I was logged into work looking at some stuff. I spoke to Christian later to fill in the gaps a little.

From there I went to a panel session about the ACE program. Unfortunately it had been put in the wrong track, in a room the other side of the building, and up against a load of really good speakers who were going to soak up the audience (Maria). The audience was compact and bijou. 🙂

From there I went back to the hotel to drop off my stuff, then it was off for a brief visit to the Exadata meetup, followed by the ACE dinner.

Looking back it was a really random day, but I got to speak to a lot of people, which is the best thing about conferences for me. 🙂

Cheers

Tim…

UKOUG Tech18 : See you there!

Next week is UKOUG Tech 18. It’s going to be an unusual event for me for a couple of reasons.

First up, I’m going to be in Liverpool from Mon-Wed. I can’t go on Sunday as it’s nephew #1’s birthday, but this is the first time I will be at the event for this long. Depending on who else from the company goes, I might have to work (from the hotel) on one of the days, but…

Next, it’s a pretty quiet conference for me, as I only submitted one presentation, but I’ve just been invited to a panel, so I can pretend I’ve got two sessions. 🙂

Title : Understanding the ACE Program & it’s Value
Time & Place : Room 20-21, Monday 3rd December 5:10 PM – 5:55 PM
Abstract :
Have you ever wondered what the ACE Program is about? What does it mean to those who are part of it and what is it’s value to Oracle? Have you wondered about being part of it? Come along to this session and we will answer your questions.

Title : DBA Does Docker
Time & Place : Database 2 – 1C, Tuesday 4th December 2:25 PM – 3:10 PM
Abstract : here

This will be my last event for the year, so I’m hoping it goes OK. 🙂

Cheers

Tim…

Why Automation Matters : The Series

A few months ago I decided to write a post about the lost time associated with the hand-offs between teams. It was relevant to a conversation I wanted to have, and I wanted to order my thoughts before I went into that conversation. That post accidentally became a series of posts, which I’ve listed below.

I’m not an expert at automation and I’m far from being an expert at DevOps. Theses were just a useful exercise for me, so I thought they might be of interest to other people.

I’m not sure if I’ll write any more, but if I do, I’ll add them to this page.

I’ve added an Automation category to the blog, which I’ve been using to categorise these posts, and other things like my posts about Docker and Vagrant.

Cheers

Tim…

Why Automation Matters : Technical Debt

I was going to include Technical Debt in yesterday’s post about Unplanned Work, but I thought it deserved a post of its own.

What is it? You can read a definition here, but essentially it comes down to a short-termism approach to solving problems. It can be applied to many situations, but here are two.

  • You have a bunch of applications written in Oracle Forms 6i. A new requirement comes in, and rather than biting the bullet and writing the new application in something more up to date, you write it in Forms 6i and ship it.
  • You have to build a new server, which involves manual processes for building the VM, OS and other software (app server, DB etc.). You go ahead and do it the way you always have, rather than using this as an opportunity to take a step back and start working on automation first.

In both these cases, it might actually be the correct decision to just move forward, as you may not have the necessary time and skills yet to do something “better”. It’s not the specific decision that matters as much as the recognition of the implications of that decision. By moving forward with this, you have to recognise you’ve added to your technical debt.

In the case of the development example it’s quite obvious. You now have yet another application that will have to be upgraded/rewritten in the future. You’ve added to your future workload.

In the case of the server it may be less obvious. If everything were done properly, with no human errors, you may have a beautifully consistent and perfect server, but the reality is that isn’t going to happen and you’ve just added another “non-standard” server to your organisation, that will probably result in more unplanned work later, and should immediately go on the list of things that needs replacing, once an automated and standardised approach is created.

Technical debt is insidious because it’s so easy to justify that you made the right decision, and turn a blind eye to the problems down the road.

What’s this got to do with automation? In this case it’s about removing obstacles. Improving your delivery of infrastructure and application delivery pipeline makes it far easier to make changes in the future, and one thing we know about working in technology is everything is constantly changing. I see automation as an enabler of change, which can help you make decisions that won’t add to your technical debt.

Cheers

Tim…

Why Automation Matters : Unplanned Work and Death of Productivity!

The first time I heard the term “unplanned work” it was like a light bulb switched on in my head. I’m not sure my brain even recognised the distinction between different types of work before I heard this term. It was all just work to me.

You’ve probably read the descriptions of the types of work from one methodology or another before, but just to summarise you could break it down to three types:

  • External Projects. This is project work done for your customers. Depending on where you work, your customers could be external to the company, or a different department in the company.
  • Internal Projects. This is project work done within the team to improve your situation. It could be refactoring stuff, patching, upgrades, improving your tooling and processes, or automation of tasks. You get the idea.
  • Unplanned Work. This is stuff that comes out of the blue and forces you to drop what you are doing and look at it. Maybe a priority 1 incident.

The first two are planned work, since they are both projects, where you should have an idea of the resources required and the time they will take. As the name suggests, unplanned work is unplanned. 🙂 You can add some slippage time into your projects to allow for interruptions by unplanned work, but ultimately you never know if it’s going to be enough.

So what’s this got to do with automation? Well to put it bluntly, when you do stuff manually you are going to screw up and have inconsistencies between your environments. Later you will do something that you’ve done “a million times before”, knowing exactly how long it’s going to take, it will fail and you’ll lose a bunch of time trying to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. While you are doing that, all the work you should have been doing is not happening and the list of people screaming at you is getting longer by the minute.

It can easily get to the point where you are constantly firefighting, bouncing from one problem to the next, and never make any headway with your projects. Welcome to the world on unplanned work, population you!

I’m not trying to make out automation is 100% guaranteed to prevent unplanned work, but there are a whole bunch of cases where it’s going to reduce the incidence of problems, or make resolution of those problems simpler.

Cheers

Tim…

Why Automation Matters : Can’t the cloud do it for you?

One of the comments on my previous post in the series mentioned using the cloud may solve a lot of these issues, implying you don’t have to bother with your own automation. Cursed with the ability to see both sides to any argument, I both agree and disagree with this. 🙂

Cloud providers bring a lot to the table as far as automation is concerned. Firing up new VMs and containers is really simple, and of course platforms such as RDS and the Oracle Autonomous Database family take over many of the operational aspects. So I can forget about automation right? Not so fast…

We typically see demos of cloud services that involve clicking buttons on web pages and it all works and looks great, but it’s not the way we really want to work. We want our infrastructure as code, and you can’t check button presses into your version control. 🙂 Also, if we are promoting self-service in the company, the last thing we want to do is give everyone access to our cloud account.

The cloud providers have got our back here. They allow us to use CLIs, web services and tools like Terraform to define whole chunks of infrastructure based on their services. You can use these tools to create your own self-service portals within your company. But that’s a new bunch of stuff you have to learn to become effective using this platform. It hasn’t freed you up from having to think about automation completely. It’s just altered your focus.

What’s more, a cloud provider will not be able to provide every solution you need, configured exactly the way you want it. They may provide many of the building blocks or platforms, but you are still going to have to do some of the work your self, whether it’s application configuration or change management. All of this still needs to be automated if you want to live up to the infrastructure as code mantra.

We also have companies at various stages in the cloud journey to consider. Some companies are still not considering cloud. Some are part way through the journey. Some will almost certainly be running in mixed environments, made up of on-prem and multiple cloud providers for a long time, or eve forever? Automation allows you to abstract some of the working parts, giving you some consistency in these mixed environments.

I think this all comes down to levels. You may never have to install or patch a database again, but that isn’t the whole story as far as automation is concerned.

Cheers

Tim…

Bulgarian Oracle User Group (BGOUG) 2018 : The Journey Home

It was a 03:00 start, which is never a good thing. I got down to reception to meet my fellow travellers and we started on our trip to the airport. As we walked out of the hotel we were greeted by a lite scattering of snow. It was clearly visible on some of the mountains the day before, but it was quite a surprise to see it here, especially as I left my balcony door open for the whole of my stay…

The drive to the airport was quick, as there was very little traffic. The baggage drop and check-in queue for Lufthansa was pretty large, but fortunately I had checked in online and I was hang-luggage only, so I walked straight to, and through, security. That left me with over an hour before the flight.

The flight from Sofia to Frankfurt was pretty easy. I had an empty seat next to me, so I got the laptop out and started to write two presentations I’ve got to give at work.

I was expecting the layover in Frankfurt to be about 70 minutes, but it turned out is was nearly 5 hours, because I didn’t read the itinerary properly, so I logged into work and cleared down all the crap that collected during the two days I was away.

The flight from Frankfurt to Birmingham was about and hour and went pretty smoothly. Once again I had an empty seat next to me, so happy days!

Getting through security was pretty quick, then I was in the bounciest taxi ride ever to get home, and that is was my last international conference of the year complete.

As followers of the blog will know, this year has been problematic for me from a conference perspective. It’s especially disappointing when my travelling curse hits my favourite conference of the year.

Thanks to everyone from BGOUG for letting me come for the 8th time. Thanks to the people who came to my sessions. The turnout was great, and it certainly lifted my spirits! Sorry I wasn’t able to get more involved on the first day, but at least everything went well on the second day. See you again soon!

Cheers

Tim…

PS. Here are the other posts from this trip.