ReadyNAS 104

My old NAS went pop a little while ago and I’ve spent the last few weeks backing up to alternate servers while trying to decide what to get to replace it.

Reading the reviews on Amazon is a bit of a nightmare because there are always scare stories, regardless how much you pay. In the end I decided to go for the “cheap and cheerful” option and bought a ReadyNAS 104. I got the diskless one and bought a couple of 3TB WD Red disks, which were pretty cheap. It supports the 4TB disks, but they are half the price again and I’m mean. Having just two disks means I’ve got a single 3TB RAID 1 volume. I can add a third and fourth disk, which will give me approximately 6 or 9 TB. It switches to RAID 5 by default with more than 2 disks.

The setup was all web based, so I didn’t have any OS compatibility issues. Installation was really simple. Slipped in the disks. Plugged the ethernet cable to my router and turned on the power. I went to the website (, discovered my device and ran through the setup wizard. Job done. I left it building my RAID 1 volume overnight, but I was able to store files almost immediately, while the volume was building.

The web interface for the device is really simple to use. I can define SMB/AFP/NFS shares in a couple of clicks. Security is really obvious. I can define iSCSI LUNs for use with my Linux machines and it has TimeMachine integration if you want that.

The cloud-related functionality is optional, so if you are worried about opening up a potential security hole, you can easily avoid it. I chose not to configure it during the setup wizard.

I was originally going to spend a lot more on a NAS, but I thought I would chance this unit. So far I’m glad I did. It’s small, solid and silent. Fingers crossed it won’t go pair-shaped. 🙂

I’ve got all the vital stuff on it now. I’ll start backing up some of my more useful VMs to it and see if I need to buy some more disks. I’ve got about 10TB of storage on servers, but most of it is taken up with old VMs I don’t care about, so I will probably be a bit selective.



PS. I think NetGear might be doing a revamp of their NAS lineup soon, so you might get one of these extra cheap in the near future. They’re already claim to be about 50% RRP, but most RRPs are lies. 🙂


Yosemite : It’s like OS X, but more boring to look at!

I went on my MacBook last night and saw I had updates available on the App Store. I figured this was one of those Twitter updates that seem to happen every time you blink. Much to my surprise it was a new version of OS X. You can tell how little of an Apple fanboy I am. I didn’t even know this was due, let alone here already. 🙂

I figured, what the heck and let it start. About 20 minutes later it was done and now I have Yosemite on my MacBook Pro (mid 2009). I wasn’t really timing, so that’s a guess.

First impressions.

  • It’s like OS X, but more boring to look at! Everything is flat and looks a little bland. I’m told this is the look and feel from the iPhone, but I don’t have one of those so I don’t know. I’m sure in a week I won’t remember the old look. The only reminder is the icons for all the non-Apple software I have installed, which still look like they are trying to fit in with the old look. 🙂
  • I asked one of my colleagues at work and he said it is meant to be faster. I don’t see that myself, but this is a 5 year old bit of kit.
  • Launchpad is straight out of GNOME3. I never use it anyway. Perhaps it always looked like this???
  • Mission Control and Dashboard are also things I never use, so I can’t tell if they have changed for the better or not. 🙂
  • The light colour background of the Application menu looks odd. Not bad, but different.

What’s broken? So far nothing. I can run VirtualBox, iTerm, Chrome and PowerPoint, so that is pretty much all I do with the laptop.

So in conclusion, Yosemite has completely changed my whole world and Apple are a bunch of geniuses right? Well, actually it’s a pretty mundane change as far as my usage is concerned. I’m sure it’s all terribly cloudy and someone will throw a “rewritten from the ground up” in there somewhere, kinda like Microsoft do when they release the same stuff year after year with a different skin…

By the way, it didn’t cost me anything to upgrade from pretty to bland!





Roll up! Roll up! Nothing new to see here! (Database Web Services)

Over the years I’ve written loads of stuff about consuming and publishing web services directly from the database. I’ve been doing quite a bit of this at work recently and I realised how difficult it is to find all the pieces, since they are spread across multiple articles, spanning multiple database versions. In an attempt to give a single point of entry I’ve written this very brief article.

It’s really more of a links page. 🙂

If you are new to the idea of using the database for web services, it might come as a surprise what you can do without having to turn to the dark side (middleware). 🙂



Update: This is new on my website though. 🙂

Oracle fanboy and blind to the truth?

I had a little exchange with someone on Twitter last night, which was initiated by him complaining about the cost of Oracle and predicting their demise. Once that was over I spent a little time thinking about my “fanboy status”.

If you know anything about me, you will know I’m an Oracle fanboy. I’ve spent nearly 20 years doing this stuff and the last 14+ years writing about it on the internet. If I wasn’t into it, it would be a pretty sorry state of affairs. So does that mean I’m totally blinded like all those Apple fanboys and fangirls? No. I just don’t choose to dwell on a lot of the negative and instead focus on the positive, like the cool bits of tech. The common topics I hear are:

  • Oracle costs too much : I could bleat on about the cost of Oracle and what features are missing from specific editions, but quite frankly that is boring. Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last 35+ years you should know the score. If it’s got the name Oracle associated with it, it’s probably going to be really expensive. That’s why people’s jaws drop when they find out Oracle Linux is free. They are just not used to hearing the words Oracle and free in the same sentence. If you want free or cheap, you can find it. What people often don’t consider is total cost of ownership. Nothing is ever free. The money just gets directed in different ways.
  • The cheap/free RDBMS products will kill Oracle : This talk has been going on since I started working with Oracle 20 years ago. It used to worry me. It doesn’t any more. So far it hasn’t materialized. Sure, different products have eaten into the market share somewhat and I’m sure that will continue to happen, but having a headstart over the competition can sometimes be a significant advantage. I work with other RDBMS products as well and it is sometimes infuriating how much is missing. I’m not talking about those headline Oracle features that 3 people in the world use. I’m talking about really simple stuff that is missing that makes being a DBA a total pain in the ass. Typically, these gaps have to be filled in by separate products or tools, which just complicates your environment.
  • It’s just a bit bucket : If your company is just using the database as a bit bucket and you do all the “cool” stuff in the middle tier, then Oracle databases are probably not the way to go for you. Your intellectual and financial focus will be on the middle tier. Good luck!
  • But company X use product Y, not Oracle : I’m so bored of this type of argument. Facebook use MySQL and PHP. Yes, but they wrote their own source code transformer (HipHop) to turn PHP into C++ and they use so much stuff in front of MySQL (like Memcached) that they could probably do what they do on top of flat files. Companies talk about their cool stuff and what makes them different. They are not so quick to talk about what is sitting behind the ERP that is running their business…
  • NoSQL/Hadoop/Document Stores will kill RDBMS : Have you ever had a real job in industry? Have you ever done anything other than try to write a twitter rip-off in Ruby for your school project? Do you know how long it took COBOL to die? (it still isn’t dead by the way). There is a massive investment in the I.T. industry around relational databases. I’m not saying they are the perfect solution, but they aren’t going anywhere in the near future. Good luck running your ERP on any of these non-RDBMS data stores! What has changed is that people now realise RDBMS is not the right solution for every type of data store. Using the right product for the right job is a good thing. There are still plenty of jobs where an RDBMS is the right tool.
  • The cloud will kill Oracle : The cloud could prove to be the biggest spanner in the works for many IT companies. If we start using cloud-based services for everything in the Software as a Service (SaaS) model, who cares what technology sits behind it? Provided our applications work and they meet our SLAs, who cares how many bodies are running around like headless chickens in the background to keep the thing running? For Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), I don’t think cloud makes so much of a difference. In these cases, you are still picking the type of database or the type of OS you need. They are not hidden from you like in the SaaS model. I guess the impact of cloud will depend on your definition of cloud and route the market eventually takes. What people also seem to forget is the big winners in the cloud game will be the big companies. When the world is only using SaaS, you are going to have to work for Amazon, Oracle, Microsoft etc. if you want to be a techie. The ultimate goal of cloud is consolidation and centralisation, so you will have to work for one of these big players if you want to be anything other than a user. I find it interesting that people are betting on the cloud as a way of punishing the big companies, when actually it is likely to help them and put us folks out of business…

The post has got a bit long an tedious, so I’m going to sign off now.

In conclusion, yes I’m a fanboy, but I’m not oblivious to what’s going on outside Oracle. I like playing with the tech and I try to look on the positive side where my job-related technology is concerned. If I focussed on the negative I would have to assume that Oracle is doomed and we will all die of Ebola by the end of the week…




Changing my focus? (Update)

The day before I left for OpenWorld 2014 I wrote a post called “Changing my focus?” where I talked about the possibility of dropping out of the forum scene and focusing more on writing. It’s now nearly 3 weeks later, so I thought I would follow it up to let people know what is going on…

Pretty soon after I left for OOW14 I locked the forums on my site. I had a touch of guilt, but also felt a massive sense of relief. At that point I was working on the basis I would leave them locked for OOW, then reassess when I got back.

While I was at OOW a lot of people came and spoke to me about that specific post and it seemed to be universally met with positive feedback. In some cases with messages like, “It’s about bloody time!” Everyone seemed to reflect my own opinion that the main value I can add to the community is to keep writing articles, rather than act like a “Let me Google that for you” service. Thank you to everyone for your support, especially those of you who gave me this advice several years ago! You know who you are. All I can say is you are much wiser than me. It takes a while to get into the right mindset so you can see the bloody obvious. 🙂

So what have I decided?

  • The forums are still locked and will remain so indefinitely. They are still available to view via the “Misc” tab, but I have removed the tab to them from the main website.
  • Blog comments are locked after 30 days. This alone has *massively* reduced the amount of spam I have to deal with.
  • I’m going to be very hard-nosed about dealing with people asking for help via other methods, like email and social media. The delete key is going to be used very extensively!

One of the things that really swung the balance was a comment made by someone who said, “The Oracle community is very selfish”. I won’t attribute that comment for fear of starting a flame war. 🙂 That is not to say the people contributing to the community are selfish. Far from it. But it does seem a section of the community is incredibly demanding, yet give nothing in return. Very soon after this comment was made, I received an email asking me what was wrong with the forum. The person in question hadn’t bothered to read the big red text on the page saying the forum was locked and hadn’t bothered to click the “read more” link that explained why. That kind of did it for me. I can’t deal with these zero-effort people any more…

I’m sorry if you are annoyed by this, but that’s the way it is going to be…

On the positive side, the time I’ve freed up has been put to very good use. As well as the new articles that are appearing on the front page of the website, I’ve written a couple of backfill articles on old features that somehow I’ve never written about before. I’ve also started to update the Oracle 12c installation articles so they are in line with The OL5OL6 and OL6+RAC installation articles are complete. In all cases, there are hardly any changes, but the paths and images have been brought in line with the new version so people don’t get confused. The other installation articles are on the to-do list. 🙂

I’m also planning to start some beginner-style articles, like the one I did for PL/SQL. Quite light and fluffy, even by my standards. I guess this is really to appease my guilty conscience. 🙂 There are a number of areas I can think of that need this sort of introductory stuff before people can graduate on to doing the cool stuff…

So there it is. Onwards and upwards!



Oracle Recertification Requirement

I saw this post about the policy change this morning.

There is also a comment about it here.

You can be cynical about this and assume it’s a money thing, but I’m actually in favour of it. Red Hat have a recertification policy also. If you get your RHCE, you need to do another certification, even if it is just a one-off specialism, within 3 years or you lose your status.

In Oracle’s case, the recertification is based around retired exams, so it can be quite an extended time. If you take the 11g DBA certification, that’s been around for about 5 years and has still not been retired, so it will probably be around a 7 year recertification cycle for that exam. I don’t feel that is particularly excessive. Oracle’s release cycles seem to be slowing, so I don’t see this recertification being too much of an issue…

What this does mean is that people who did the 7, 8, 8i, 9i, 10g OCP and have never bothered to upgrade it should take OCP off their CV, but I doubt that is going to happen… 🙂



JSON Support in Oracle Database 12c (

I spent a bit of time at OpenWorld looking at the JSON support in Oracle Database 12c. I started to write some stuff about it on the plane home and I spent the last two mornings finishing it off. You can see the results here.

I’ve tried to keep it light, since the documentation does a pretty good job at explaining all the variations of the syntax. I’ve also avoided trying to teach people about JSON itself. There is loads of stuff about that on the net already.

For the most part I think the JSON support looks pretty cool. During the process of writing the articles I did notice a few of things that I thought might confuse.

  • Using dot notation to access JSON in SQL seems like a neat solution, but each reference results in a query transformation that may well leave you with a whole bunch of function calls littered around your SQL. The end result is probably not what you want. I think it is probably better to avoid it and write all the direct function calls yourself, so you know exactly what the optimizer will do.
  • Typically the query transformations of dot notation result in a JSON_QUERY function call, but the optimizer can substitute a JSON_VALUE call if there is an index that it can take advantage of. That can be a little confusing when you aren’t expecting it. Once again, it might be better to avoid dot notation so as not to confuse.
  • If you are careful, the indexing of JSON data is pretty straight forward, but if you aren’t aware of how the query transformations work or you forget how very small changes in function parameters affect index usage, you can chase your tail trying to figure out why you aren’t able to use your indexes.

Until the REST APIs are released, the only way you can use this stuff is from the server side, so it’s not really something you can hand out to developers who are expecting to use just another document store. I had a play with the REST stuff during a hands-on lab at OpenWorld and it looked kind-of cool. When it’s released I’ll write an article about it and run it by some of the folks at work to see how they think it compares to other document databases…