Email Problems : A Quick Update…

I just wanted to write a quick post about an email problem I’ve discovered recently.

My website runs on AWS, but emails to my normal email address get directed by DNS to a mailbox hosted by another company. I use Gmail as my mail client, so it picks up the posts from that mailbox. Emails that are sent directly work fine, but I recently noticed those sent from my web server were failing. There are several parts of the site that send emails so I know what is going on and can respond. None of those have been working for some time. That issue is now fixed.

Some of the things that generate these emails (like comments) get picked up in my daily/weekly workflow, so I didn’t really notice a dramatic change, but some only get to me via these emails from the site, so they were hidden in the mail queue of doom.

By the time I had discovered the problem I had several thousand emails sitting in the queue. I started to work through them, but realised it was too big a job. I picked a random sample of mails and could see there were a mixture of topics including questions, messages of support and offers I simply could not refuse. πŸ™‚ I decided the only way to move forward was to delete the lot. It would have taken me weeks to get through the backlog.

So in this post I would just like to say a few things.

  • To those people that wrote to send their support for what I do on the site, thank you very much, and I’m sorry I’ve not been able to respond personally. I normally reply to these messages with a quick thank you, so I hope you don’t think I’m an arrogant prick and just ignoring you.
  • To the people who sent questions, I’m sorry your question was never answered. Please remember, I have a full time job and I do this for fun in my spare time. There is one of me, and literally thousands of you. I closed my forum because the workload was too big to cope with. If I have to choose between spending time producing new content, or answering your questions, I’m going to pick producing new content. Sorry. πŸ™‚
  • To those people offering me business opportunities. No.
  • To those people offering me various services of a questionable nature. No.

I hope there was nothing super important. Once again, sorry!



PS. Before you ask, I am going to check my mail queue from time to time in future, just in case something like this happens again… πŸ™‚

Cloud : Who are the gatekeepers now?

There’s something you might consider sinister lurking in the cloud, and it might cause a big disruption in who are considered the gatekeepers of your company’s services. I’ve mentioned governance in passing before, but maybe it’s time for me to do some thinking out loud to get this straight in my own head.

In the on-prem world the IT departments tend to be the gatekeepers, because they are responsible for provisioning, developing and maintaining the systems. If you want some new infrastructure or a new application, you have to go and ask IT, so it’s pretty easy for them to keep a handle on what is going on and stay in control.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

The initial move to the cloud didn’t really change this. Most people who proudly proclaimed they had moved to the cloud were using Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and were really just using the cloud provider as a basic hosting company. I’ve never really considered this cloud. Yes, you get some flexibility in resource allocation, but it’s pretty much what we’ve always done with hosting companies. It’s just “other people’s servers”. As far as IaaS goes, the gatekeepers are still the same, because you need all/most of the same skills to plan, setup and maintain such systems.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

When we start talking about Platform as a Service (PaaS), things start to get a little bit trickier. The early days of PaaS weren’t a great deal different to IaaS, as some of the PaaS services weren’t what I would call platforms. They were glorified IaaS, with pre-installed software you had to manage yourself. With the emergence of proper platforms, which automate much of the day-to-day drudgery, things started to shift. A developer could request a database without having to speak to the DBAs, sysadmins, virtualisation and network folks. You can of course question the logic of that, but it’s an option and there is the beginning of a power shift.

When we start talking about IoT and Serverless platforms things change big-time. The chances are the gatekeeper will be the budget holder, since you will be charged on a per request basis, and probably have to set a maximum spend per unit time to keep things under control. Depending on how your company manages departmental budgets, the gatekeeper could be whoever has some spare cash this quarter…

Software as a Service (SaaS)

Software as a Service (SaaS) possibly presents the biggest challenge for traditional on-prem IT departments, as the business can literally go out and pick the product they want, without so much of a thought for what IT think about it. Once they’ve spent the money, they will probably come to IT and expect them to magic up all the data integrations to make things work as expected. Also, once that money has been spent, good luck trying to persuade people they backed the wrong horse. SaaS puts the business users directly in the driving seat.


It would be naive to think any movement to the cloud (IaaS, PaaS or SaaS) could be done independently of an existing IT department, but the tide is turning.

The IT world has changed. The traditional power bases are eroding, and you’ve got to adapt to survive. Every time you say “No”, without offering an alternative solution, you’re helping to make yourself redundant. Every time you say, “We will need to investigate it”, as a delaying tactic, you’re helping to make yourself redundant. Every time you ignore new development and delivery pipelines and platforms, you are sending yourself to an early retirement. I’m not saying jump on every bandwagon, but you need to be aware of them, and why they may or may not be useful to you and your company.

Recently I heard someone utter the phrase, “you’re not the only hotel in town”. I love that, and it should be a wake-up call for any traditional IT departments and clouds deniers.

It’s natural selection baby! Adapt or die!



Video : Multitenant : Refreshable PDB Switchover in Oracle Database 18c Onward

Today’s video is a run through the Refreshable PDB Switchover feature introduced in Oracle 18c.

I also have a Multitenant YouTube playlist.

If you prefer reading over watching a video, you can find all the information and more here.

The star of today’s video is Kamran Agayev A. When he’s not working with Oracle technology and helping people to pass their OCM exam, he’s choking people out at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. πŸ™‚



The problem with Googling for solutions

I started to write a post, then realised I’ve already written it several times before, with the most coherent of them here.

So instead I’m going to change it up a little and tell a story.

I’m a generalist, and as you will know it’s really hard to be good at everything, so clearly there are some things I’m “not so good at”. Like most people, I use Google a lot, and my Google-fu is strong.

A couple of weeks ago we did a security scan of an existing system, which revealed some security flaws. It was a non-Oracle product, so I didn’t have a recipe to follow and I started Googling for solutions. The product in question is very popular, and there were lots of responses to my Google search, with most of the top results coming from Stack Exchange (Stack Overflow). Happy days I thought, as the Stack Exchange sites is effectively peer-reviewed, in that the correct answers are usually up-voted.

I looked at the first few different threads and people were saying the same thing. The highest up-voted answer on each thread gave a very direct and simple parameter value to solve the issue I had, so I was happy…

I followed the advice, set the parameter, restarted the service and tested. It didn’t do what everyone claimed it would. Armed with the parameter name, I searched the product documentation, and clearly the parameter didn’t do what the Stack Exchange answers said it did.

That seemed very odd, so I assumed these must be answers that were correct for an old version of the product. I checked the docs for previous versions. Same result. After reading the docs I found the real answer, implemented it, tested it and it worked.

What is really worrying about this is the answers on several threads on Stack Exchange were wrong. Those incorrect answers had been up-voted by lots of people, which suggests they agreed with the answer, even though these solutions could *never* have worked. So this seems to indicate one of two things to me.

  • People read the answer, it sounded plausible, which it did, so they up-voted it without trying it.
  • People had actually used this solution, thought it was the right solution and up-voted it, but clearly never tested their system or they would have seen it didn’t work and they still have the same security flaw.

One of the things I say in that post linked above is.

“Remember, even when you have built up a list of trusted sources, you should still constantly test what they say. Everyone can make mistakes.”

That’s really important because the internet is full of great information, but it’s also full of bullshit. Being able to tell the difference is really important, and the only way to do that is to test it, or do further research if it’s something you can’t test for yourself…



Oracle ACE Program : How you “align” matters!

Every so often I feel moved to write something about community programs. In the past it has resulted in these posts.

After some Tweets over the weekend I felt the need to write something more.

I’ve said in previous posts that you shouldn’t aim to become an Oracle ACE. If you enjoy what you do, and what you do is already aligned with the current criteria of a community program, like the Oracle ACE Program, then everything will be smooth sailing. You will eventually be nominated, join the program and everything will work out fine. The “judging criteria” will be almost irrelevant as you will have no trouble meeting them. If you aren’t aligned to those specific criteria, your experience will be more problematic. You will struggle to meet the criteria and eventually give up.

The current criteria for the ACE program are almost tailor made for someone like me. The only way I can learn new stuff and improve my understanding of existing stuff is to write. I did this before the Oracle ACE Program existed. I did it before my website existed. It’s just what I do. I almost never type something into a console or command line. I write it in a scratchpad and paste it into the command line. I’ve got literally thousands of lines of instructions, commands and ideas that may or may not end up as articles. The point is, it’s really easy for me because the way I am and the way I work make it easy for me.

For others like me it can be really hard to appreciate how other people react to the judging criteria, because their perspective and way of working can seem so foreign to us. The problem with these discussions is “everybody is correct” from their own perspective. In a Tweet I wrote the following.

” I think we all have different experiences and different motivations for what we do. If this aligns with the goals of the ACE program, then the experience will seem great. If it doesn’t align, it will seem forced and unfair. All opinions are valid.”

I was originally quite defensive, and I wanted to post about all the points made and give my counter arguments, but what’s the point? My opinion is no more or less valid than anyone else’s. πŸ™‚ If you are interested in what I think, read the posts linked above, because I think I’ve said it all before, but that’s just *my* opinion!



Video : Multitenant : PDB Refresh in Oracle Database 12.2 Onward

Today’s video demonstrates the PDB refresh functionality introduced in Oracle database 12.2.

If you prefer to read rather than watch, you can get all the information from this video from here.

The star of today’s video is Markus Michalewicz. He’s so serious in this clip it makes me laugh. πŸ™‚



VirtualBox 6.0.8

VirtualBox 6.0.8 was released last night.

The downloads and changelog are in the usual places.

I’ve done this install on my Windows 10 laptop at work. No dramas on either. I’ll probably do the installations at home on Windows 10, macOS Mojave and Oracle Linux 7 hosts tonight. I’ll add an update here when I’ve done that.

Some Vagrant builds are running now… πŸ™‚



Update: Installations on Windows 10, macOS Mojave and Oracle Linux 7 hosts at home went fine. Running through some Vagrant builds now.

Video : Multitenant : PDB Archive Files in Oracle Database 12.2 Onward

Today’s video is a run through the PDB Archive File functionality introduced in Oracle 12.2.

If you prefer your content in text form, this video is based on the articles here.

The star of today’s video is Maris Elsins. πŸ™‚



WordPress 5.2 “Jaco”

WordPress 5.2 “Jaco” was released yesterday.

For the most part these updates pass me by as I’m not too interested in WordPress features. I just write stuff and publish it. Simple as that. So often I just apply them and forget about them.

One thing that did catch my eye was the mentioned improvement to the Site Health feature, available from “Tools > Site Health”.

After upgrading 5 different WordPress installations, I checked the Site Health on this blog and there were a few things flagged. It turned out I wasn’t on the latest version of PHP, I was on an older version of PHP7, and I had one mandatory and two optional modules missing. I fixed all that with the following.

rpm -Uvh remi-release-7.rpm
yum-config-manager --enable remi-php73
yum update -y
yum install -y php-gd php-bcmath php-pecl-imagick

If you were on the website or blog this morning, you may have had a bit of a funky experience as I restarted Apache a few times. πŸ™‚

All the Site Health tests are passed now. Happy days.

The WordPress update itself went smoothly. I’m guessing by the time you read this, your site may have auto-upgraded anyway.



Video : Multitenant : Relocate a Pluggable Database (PDB) in Oracle Database 12.2 Onward

Today’s video is a brief run through the PDB relocate functionality, introduced in Oracle 12.2.

As always, this is based on articles with a lot more information, which you can find here.

The star of this video is none other than Martin Bach. πŸ™‚