Machu Picchu

At about 04:00 we were queuing for the bus ride to the base of Machu Picchu. I started to feel a bit ill again. A little after 05:00 we were on the bus driving up to the base of Machu Picchu. It took about 30 mins to get there, most of which I spent trying not to puke.

I was very dissapointed with the entrance to Machu Picchu. It felt like the entrance to a theme park. There was even Machu Picchu WiFi. We were there to witness wonder and spectacle, but seemed to be getting Disneyland. After being on the verge all morning, I puked and felt much better.

When we eventually got through the turnstyles, we started to walk up the hill. The stairs are quite steep, but nothing I would be worried about if it weren’t for the altitude. It makes it feel like hard work, so you have to take it slow. I used the turns to my advantage and mostly hid the fact I was repeatedly throwing up. After a few minutes we got to area that overlooks the former residential area of Machu Picchu. If you’ve ever seen a picture of Machu Picchu, chances are you’ve seen the one taken from this spot. A few levels up and we were at the guardhouse, which gives an even better view. I puked there too. :) For me, this was all I wanted to do as far as Machu Picchu was concerned. I wanted to stand there and see this for myself. Everything else was a bonus. People visit several times and spend days there. This was really all I wanted. :)

After that we walked down towards the residential area. At that point, I really felt like I was done for. I told Debra to carry on and I walked down to the entrance to look for medical attention. I finally got to see the medic, and puke in her bin a few times. She injected me with a concoction of anti-nausea and electrolytes and left me to sleep for a while. By the time Debra returned I was feeling much better. Interestingly, it was nothing to do with the altitude. My blood O2 was fine. It was pretty similar to what happened to me in India. I’m starting to think it’s nausea caused by a type of migrane, induced by lack of sleep.

Anyway, after my rather brief visit to Machu Picchu, we were heading down the mountain in the bus. We got some food and chilled out before boarding the train to take us back to Cusco and the rest of our luggage.

The train journey back took about 3.5 hours. Lot’s of great sights, only marred by some intensely annoying children, who were complaining about being bored. Why do adults drag children along to this stuff? They don’t enjoy it and ruin it for everyone else!

Back at Cusco, it was a quick taxi ride to the hotel, where I puked and went to bed. We were hoping to have a brief look at Cusco, but it gets dark so early in Peru, there really wasn’t time.

I would like to say I got a good night’s sleep, but the hotel we stayed at was so noisey. I woke several times in the night because of fireworks, music and general noise in the town, which made the 03:30 start the next day even harder to cope with.

Now I know this all sounds really negative and bad, but it was worth it. Machu Picchu is one of those places I always hoped to see before I died. The fact it nearly killed me in the process is besides the point. :) I’m pretty sure if I hadn’t been so beaten up by two weeks of travelling and presenting it would have been a breeze. Part of me thinks it would be nice to go back and see again, but part of me thinks I’ve done all I wanted to do. It is a very expensive experience, but worth it in my opinion.

I wasn’t really in a fit state to take photos, but fortunately Debra was and she let me have a copy of them, which you can see here. I especially like the ones of me looking like dreadful. :)

Cheers

Tim…

Update 1: I think it is great how much work they are doing to preserve the Machu Picchu site, but the amount of rebuilding is a bit of a concern. At the moment, about 30% of the site has been rebuilt and the work is continuing. If too much is done, it ceases to be an ancient site and becomes a modern site in the style of an ancient one. They need to tread very carefully, or risk taking the final step and completing the transition to Disneyland!

Update 2: At no point did I see Pikachu! Apparently, Machu Picchu and Pikachu are not the same thing. Who’da thunk it?

Lima to Cusco to Machu Picchu

With the tour over, Debra and I had arranged to spend a couple of days visiting Machu Picchu, before heading home.

We woke up early on Friday to get a flight from Lima to Cusco. We arrived at the airport in plenty of time, got to our gate and saw a list of delayed and cancelled flights to Cusco. The weather was too bad in Cusco for flights to take off and land. Luckily, after a while the weather apparently cleared in Cusco, allowing us to take a flight which arrived about 1 hour late.

We had arranged to drop our luggage off at a hotel in Cusco a day early, then continue on to Machu Picchu. The taxi ride to the hotel was interesting. Cusco has some very narrow streets that are barely wide enough for get a car through. It was quite hairy at times. We eventually got there, dropped our bags off and continued in the taxi to Ollantaytambo, which took about 90 mins. This allowed us to briefly see some of the sacred valley up close. During the drive I had a funny turn, which I put down to the high altitude. Debra said I looked green. By the time we got to Ollantaytambo and got some food I was feeling better.

While we were waiting for the train, I noticed the arrivals/departures screen on the wall had a session of TOAD running, doing some queries. By the time we had cameras ready, it was gone and the announcements screen was back. Debra went on the hunt and found a lady in an office that confirmed they (PeruRail) were using Oracle. :) We got on the Vistadome train, which has lots of extra windows, including in the roof, which is essential if you want a good view of the mountains around you. The train has a rather narrow gauge, which is a little disconcerting at first. The train takes you to Aguas Calientes, now known as Machu Picchu Pueblo, which is the best place to stay if you plan an early visit to Machu Picchu.

Just a quick word of warning, I did not like Machu Picchu Pueblo at all. It is a great setting in the mountains with the river running through, but it is one giant tourist centre, full to the brim with restaurants, markets and tourist shops. Many of the write-ups about Machu Picchu talk about it being ruined by tourists. This town proves the point! We bought our bus tickets for the next day, grabbed some food and headed to bed for an early start.

Cheers

Tim…

Update: Here is a quick montage of the journey to Machu Picchu.

Happy Birthday to oracle-base.com (sort-of)

birthday-cake-clipartToday is another anniversary, but this time it’s the website, which is 15 years old.

OK. This is a bit of a cheat because:

  • The website originally had a different name, so you could say the website with it’s current name is 13 months younger, but it’s the same site, so whatever.
  • I don’t actually know the exact day the first page went online, but I do know the date I bought the original domain name (before the rename to oracle-base.com), so I know the first page was put up about now.

Anyway, July 3rd is from now on the official birthday of the website. Makes it easy to remember, because it’s the day after my birthday.

Cheers

Tim…

PS. For those that are interested, the blog was 10 years old last month. I do know the exact date for that because the posts are dated and you can read the first post. :)

Writing Tips

writingIn this series of posts I’ve been discussing my opinion on various aspects of writing, including blogging, writing articles and whitepapers, or just writing documentation in your company. If anything more comes to mind I’ll write it and link it from this post.

Here are the posts that made up this series.

I’ll put a link to this post from the main website and from the blog toolbar.

Hope you enjoyed the series.

Cheers

Tim…

Writing Tips : Copyright Theft

writingIf you’ve followed my blog you will know people try to steal my articles all the time. It happens to all bloggers, unless they are unpopular or rubbish. You don’t really have to look for it, because your readers will spot it and tell you. :)

Some things to remember about this stuff…

All material published on the internet has an implicit copyright, even if there is no explicit copyright notice on the site. This means, unless the copyright owner gives you explicit permission, republishing their content is an act of theft. When you are writing, make sure you are doing the work, not stealing other people’s work.

Google actively downgrades the search rankings of duplicate content. They know who published the content first. By stealing the content you haven’t really done yourself any favours and you’ve broken the law. Way to go!

If you find someone is stealing your content, you have options. All blogging platforms and hosting providers are duty bound to follow up on copyright theft claims. If they ignore it, they can be deemed culpable. You should:

  • Contact the owner of the blog and politely ask them to remove the content.
  • If they don’t do it in a timely manner, issue a DMCA (or geographical equivalent) takedown notice to their hosting company. Hosting companies get really twitchy about them, and tend to react really quickly.

There are movements like Copyleft and Creative Commons, where people actively encourage redistribution, but even then you have to follow the rules. It’s not a golden ticket to do anything you want with the content. The content producer still reserves some rights. Remember, unless explicitly stated differently, the default stance is the material on the internet is copyright, not copyleft!

Cheers

Tim…

 

Writing Tips : Can I get paid to write?

writingI’ll prefix this post with a warning. I’ve never done any paid blogging myself, so this is based on emails I’ve received from people requesting me to write for them and from comments I’ve heard from others. With that in mind…

Apart from having adverts on your blog or selling books, there are other ways to earn money from writing. You will have to decide if they suit you.

Paid Articles. Some websites, blogs and magazines pay for articles. I’m not sure what the going rate is these days, but I seem to remember a couple of well known sites suggesting I could earn up to $1500 USD per article. I’m not sure if that was bullshit or not because I didn’t pursue it. I guess this can have a number of benefits in addition to the cash. If the website or publication is prestigious, it could help raise your profile and the profile of your blog, but I’m guessing they are only asking people who already have a good profile anyway. :) Getting a regular column in a magazine could be a nice little earner if you like doing it. It’s never really appealed to me. I like writing a certain style of article. I don’t think that style translates well to what most publishers are looking for. Added to that, I like to hit the “Publish” button when I’m happy with something, not wait for other people to edit it beyond all recognition. It’s the control freak in me. :)

Ghost Writing. Some companies want a professional blog that is regularly updated with content, but don’t have the time or skills to really accomplish that. Those companies make a point of hiring ghost writers to do the work for them. I guess I’m a little naive, but I was blissfully unaware of this until recently when a colleague mentioned his friend was a professional blogger. I asked what he blogged about and the answer was essentially anything. He has his own, “how to make money from blogging”, blog :) and ghost writes for other people. I guess this is just like being a journalist or doing the paid articles thing, except that your name is not associated with the work, so it’s not going to do anything for your profile, but if it pays the bills, do you care?

Infomercials. Some people get paid to write about products or services on their own blogs. I don’t really have a problem with this provided you make it abundantly clear that the post is an informercial. I’m not sure about the legalities in other regions, but in Europe you are breaking the law if you don’t make this clear. From a moral perspective, I do have a problem with it if you don’t actually believe what you are saying. I guess each person has to make this choice for themselves. I’ve been a vegetarian for about 30 years, but next week I’m starting a series of posts sponsored by Wallmart about my favourite ways to cook steak… :)

I’ve been asked to write infomercial type posts a number of times, sometimes for products I really believe in, but I’ve always said no. I’m not motivated by money, so it’s not necessary for me to go down that road. The only advice I would give is to be careful you limit the amount of this type of content. If people start to believe you are just an opinion for hire, you may start losing the respect of your readers.

If you are blogging as a potential money earner, then this stuff may be of interest to you. Just be careful you don’t compromise yourself!

Cheers

Tim…

Writing Tips : How can I make money?

writingYou’ve started a blog. This time next year you’re going to be a millionaire!

If you are interested in making money from a website you can. There are a number of advertising options, with the most popular for the small publishers being Google Adsense. Having said that, you’re going to get a rude awakening when you start earning 20 cents a day.

Advertisers care about reach, so advertising is a numbers game. If you want to make big money, you have to get big hit rates. How big is big? One of my friends works in advertising and for direct advertising they don’t consider sites with less than 500,000 hits per month, but even at 1,000,000 hits per month they still consider it a small site. If you happen across a really niche concept, an advertiser may *need* your small number of hits, but for most blogs, unless you are getting massive numbers of hits, you’re not going to retire on your advertising income.

Another big factor is the subject area. On an internet scale, Oracle is a niche subject. If you want to make money, you probably need to write about a more popular subject. The most heavily subscribed subject on YouTube is Minecraft. Gaming channels kick ass for hits and money making. Ask PewDiePie.

So I’m saying don’t write an Oracle blog right? Wrong! What I’m saying is money shouldn’t be your sole motivation for writing an Oracle blog. If it is, you will fail and stop. Be motivated by something more important than money. If it goes well, then some money may follow, but you are probably not going to be the next J. K. Rowling. :)

I’ve got another more specific post in the series about getting paid for writing.

Cheers

Tim…

Writing Tips : A URL is for life, not just for Christmas!

writingI’m currently doing yet another pass through my whole website correcting broken external links. This is nothing to do with my bad management. This is to do with people changing their URLs and not putting the correct redirects in place. I’ve just done a scan of my website and there are over 800 broken links to Oracle documentation!

There seem to be several ways people deal with URL changes on their website.

  • They do nothing and quite happily let broken links fail and get picked up by their 404 error page.
  • They put in a generic redirect page that takes you to the top of the website, not the original content the link pointed to.
  • They put in a correct redirect, but only for a limited period, after which, the URL fails and you get the 404 page.
  • They put in place a proper redirect and it stays there forever, so all previous URLs for the content continue to work and direct to the correct content.

In my opinion, the only acceptable option is the last one. A URL is for life, not just for Christmas. A variant of this slogan from my childhood. :)

From your perspective, broken links (internal and external) are bad for your website. It’s annoying for your readers and make your site appear poorly maintained. Broken links are one of the factors search engines use to judge your website, so it is in your interest to keep things ship-shape.

Being an Oracle blogger can prove difficult at times as Oracle have this annoying habit of changing their URLs a lot and not putting the correct redirects in place.

Don’t add to this problem. Once you start writing, try to keep all the URLs alive forever. If you move your blog to a different service, leave the old one there and put links to the new location. If you self-host, life is easier as you can do redirects using “.htaccess” or directly in your “httpd.conf” file.

You can identify broken links in your site using a link scanner. I’m currently using SiteCrawl.net, which seems to do the job OK. Once you’ve identified the broken links, you can start the arduous task of correcting them. This involves finding the new home of the content and correcting your link to it. It’s not fun, but it has to be done. Once you see how boring and annoying it is, you will appreciate how important it is that you don’t piss off other people by not maintaining your own URLs.

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…