Happy birthday to me!

Yes, it’s that time of year again. Another year older and supposedly another year wiser.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I seem to have missed a few years between 18 and 36. Where did they go and what was I doing? It’s all a blur.

I was sure that Larry was going to release Oracle 10g Release 2 in time for my birthday!

I’m off to hit the books.



Are we big fish in a small pond?

How well do we as Oracle professionals cope on the worldwide stage?

I was struggling to answer a question on my forum yesterday. My gut reaction was that both the question and answer were simple, but I seemed incapable of grasping the issue. The reason for my difficulty was that English was not the first language of the person asking the question. This made me feel guilty on a couple of levels:

  • I’m a bit ashamed of the fact I can’t speak another language. I was terrible at French and German at school and two years of Japanese lessons left me in a position where all I can do is count to 10 and introduce myself. Not a massive return on my investment 🙂
  • I could imagine the frustration on the part of the other person. A newcomer to Oracle has enough to deal with, without having to cope with a language barrier on top of everything else.

This got me thinking about how we in the English speaking Oracle world must be percieved on the world stage.

I did a quick scan on the net and found a Population by Country breakdown. When you take a look at the numbers you’ll see that in comparison to China and India most countries seem relatively insignificant in population terms. Both these countries have recently seen a boom in their IT industries to the point where they are fast becoming IT superpowers. With that in mind, our myopic view of the IT industry seems very much like being a big fish in a small pond.

In actual fact, the IT industry is more than aware of this fact. So much so that even a certain company with the motto “Don’t be evil.” thinks nothing of censoring its content to get its foot in the door. Of course, they’re not the only people at it:

To return to my initial questions:

  • Are we big fish in a small pond? I think so.
  • How well do we as Oracle professionals cope on the worldwide stage? Not so well.

I would be interested to know the reactions of people on both sides of the debate. If English is not your first language do you feel left out in the cold, or have you come to accept that English is a prerequisite in the IT industry?



Firefox Livemarks

One of the guys from work has just pointed out the Livemark feature of Firefox, which allows you to create dynamic bookmarks based on XML feeds.

  • Open the Bookmarks Manager dialog (Bookmarks > Manage Bookmarks…).
  • Create a new livemark (File > New Livemark…).
  • Fill in the properties dialog with appropriate values and click OK. Try these:
    Name: “AskTom – Recently Updated”
    Feed Location: “http://asktom.oracle.com/pls/ask/ask_tom.newest.rss”
    Description: “Most recently updated posts on asktom.oracle.com.”

The resulting bookmark is dynamically generated from the contents of the feed.

I think it’s neat, but now I have to decide between Bloglines, Thunderbird and Firefox as my blog reader 😉

By the way, the blogger spellcheck tries to substitue the word “Asthma” for “AskTom” 🙂



Personal Development

This is a random collection of thoughts on personal development, both in and out of the workplace.

Developing your skillset
Jeff Hunter has a very nice post on the relevance of certification called Does Certification Matter Anymore? The comments section includes some of my own thoughts.

On a more general note we all have to make choices about whether to try and progress our skillsets or stick with what we have. I’m reading and learning constantly, but now and then I start “the next big push” and for a moment I’m filled with dread. The more I learn the more I understand the process of learning and the more I realise there are no short cuts. The only way to understand something is to chip away at it until it all makes sense.

Putting yourself on the line
The first time I posted on a forum I was terrified. I watched the thread for ages waiting to see if someone trashed my answer, which they did. My choices were to (a) stop posting or (b) get myself up to speed and try again. I picked (b).

The same thing happened again when I started to write articles for my website. I hate to think what rubbish is still lurking on my site, but at the time I wrote it I believed it to be true…

Even after all these years it’s still happening to me. I’ve just sent out a batch of books all over the world to get reviewed. I could have picked people who would say good things out of loyalty to me, but instead I picked people who would tell me the truth. If the reviews say the book is rubbish I would rather people didn’t waste their money on it. If the reviews are positive then I know I’m moving in the right direction. Either way these reviews will have a positive affect on my life. This conveniently links into my next point.

All experiences are good
The dedication in by book reads,

“This book is dedicated every person I’’ve met, every place I’’ve been and every event I’’ve experienced.”

OK, it sounds a little cheesey, but I believe it’s true. Sometimes even the worst situations turn out to be the source something good.

I carry a small effigy of Ganesha, a Hindu deity who is known as “the remover of obstacles”, a well-timed present from a friend. Ganesha is part man, part elephant, part God and part demon. Now the interesting thing about Ganesha is that he also places obstacles in your path, as a way of teaching you a lesson. I’m not a religous person, but I love what he represents. We can learn a lot about ourselves by our reactions to both good and bad situations.

Acknowledge your ego
We all have an ego. It’s a contributing factor in our desire to progress. I heard this quote a few years ago,

“To deny your own ego is the most egotisitcal thing you can do.”

I can’t remember the source, but I think it’s pretty neat. I guess we all need to keep our egos in check from time to time 😉

Closing statements
I have two quotes to round off this post. The first is from a great sage called Jeff Hunter who said,

“Can’t we all just get along?”

I don’t know where I got this next one from, probably some hippy Yoga teacher,

“Life’s a journey, not a destination.”



Server Room Air Con

Take a bunch of servers, add some ropey air con and what do you get? A server room that can just about stay at the correct temperature.

Now add a whole bunch of new kit and run it all on the hottest day of the year. What do you think is going to happen? Maybe, one of the RAC nodes will bomb out complaining about the temperature and you won’t be able to get in there to do anything without an asbestos suit. I figure if we install a heat exchange we can probably supply hot water for the whole city.

In the UK we seem incapable of dealing with any temperature variations. I suppose it could be worse. Global warming could flip us into another iceage…



Ad Blocking. Is it right?

I’m having a bit of a moral dilema about ad blocking.

On the one hand I’m totally sick of seeing sites where the whole page is full of flashing ads. It’s a waste of my bandwidth and I don’t like having to scroll down before I can see the subject of the page. On the other hand I place google ads on my site to help me pay for the hosting costs.

Now recently I saw what I thought was a drop in my site (ORACLE-BASE) hitrates, basing this assumption on the stats that were provided by google. When I checked my real site stats (I don’t do that very often these days) I noticed that infact my page hits were through the roof. What does this mean? Either google are telling me porky pies (lies) or people are blocking the ads.

For me this is no major issue as I’m still covering my costs, but it does have a bigger impact. I like being able to access loads of content for free on the net. For alot of the individuals and companies supplying this content the only payback is advertising revenue. If the trend for ad blocking continues this will have one of two affects for alot of people. Either they will start to charge for content or they will stop providing content altogether. Either way this is bad.

I suppose another question is, do we have a contractual obligation not to block the ads? I read something recently about this but I didn’t bookmark the link. Also, there is a big debate in the UK over Tivo which allows you to record programs off TV and remove the adverts. Great for the viewer, bad for commercial TV which pays for it’s programming via advertising.

Personally I’ve decided not to use ad blockers. I think it would be hypocritical of me to place ads on my own site then block them on others. I guess it’s up to each one of us to make that choice.

Of course, if site owners had been a bit more sensible about the adverts they displayed we may not have got to this point.

I’m interested to know what other people think about this. Do you think ad blocking is good or bad?

Maybe a more popular blog might pick up this theme to get some real input on the matter…



Windows not ready for the desktop!

I’m constantly reading that Linux is not ready for the desktop, yet today I’m being forced to use WindowsXP on my desktop and I’m spending most of my time running Firefox, Thunderbird, SQL*Plus and OpenOffice. Now I’m thinking to myself, “Aren’t those the same applications I use on my Linux boxes?” Now all I need to do is invent a Bluecurve theme for XP and I’ll feel perfectly at home. So does all this mean that WindowsXP is not ready for the desktop?

I’m currently downloading Fedora Core 4 and it’s killing me. I foolishly left my disks at work and I don’t think they will appreciate me pulling the ISOs across the VPN. I’ve been using the FC4 Test 3 version of Fedora at home so I’m not expecting anything that different with the full version, but it will allow me to check that my Oracle 10g install guide still works OK.

Whilst I remember, I noticed a few interesting things about Thunderbird including:

  • You can use Thunderbird with your Hotmail, Yahoo and Lycos webmail accounts by using the extensions from this site http://webmail.mozdev.org/
  • It allows you to subscribe to RSS and blog feeds.
  • It’s got a built in spam filter that seems to work OK.

The first point is pretty handy. It beats paying Microsoft for the privilege of using Outlook Express to read your hotmail accounts. I installed it for one of my friends who uses dialup. He can now use his Hotmail account without having to make cups of tea between every button click.



Calm and Contented…

I’m a little calmer today.

It’s amazing how your mood changes after 2 hours of bending yourself into silly shapes followed by a quick visit to a pub … or two.

My open TARs are all up to date. The questions on my forum are all answered and so far all seems quiet.

Hopefully today we will start to move all our backups from an assortment of disk and tape devices to HP Data Protector. What’s more, we might actually get some backups of things that have never been backed up before (*). All the testing went well so what could possibly go wrong…



(*) Yes. I understand the gravity of this statement. As I’ve said before, you can lead a horse to water…