Happy Holidays and See You Next Year!

Just a quick post to say I’m ending the year here. I don’t plan on doing anymore videos this year, and I’m going to do my best to stay clear of social media until next year. I’ve found 2020 a very difficult ride, and probably not for the reasons you are thinking. I normally do an end of year review, but I might not this year. Better to look forward than back.

Here’s the latest batch of “.com” clips from the videos this year. Thanks to everyone who contributed.

I hope everyone has a happy holiday season, and I hope 2021 is the polar opposite of 2020.

Cheers

Tim…

Autonomous Database Anywhere?

I was reading about Amazon EKS Distro (EKS-D) and EKS Anywhere. For those of you not in the know, EKS stands for Elastic Kubernetes Service. What’s interesting about these new announcements is they will allow people to run EKS in Amazon AWS, on-prem and potentially in other cloud providers (Google, Azure, Oracle etc.). That got me thinking…

What if Oracle created “Autonomous Database Anywhere”? The suite of software that makes up the Autonomous Database, but packaged in a way it could be installed on-prem, but more importantly at other cloud vendors.

I happen to like the Autonomous Database product(s). It’s the start of a long journey, but I like the way it is headed. There are a couple of hurdles I see for companies.

  1. Learning to live with the restrictions of working in an Autonomous Database. When you want something done automatically, you have to give up an element of control and learn not to meddle too much.
  2. Some companies already have a big investment in “other clouds”, and won’t be jumping to Oracle Cloud any time soon.

I see the second point as a bigger stumbling block for a lot of people. Don’t get me wrong, I see the future as multi-cloud, but many companies are still in the early days of cloud adoption, and trying to jump to multi-cloud from day one may be a step to far.

I know Oracle provide alternative solutions like Cloud@Customer and Azure OCI Interconnect. Both are fine for what they set out to achieve, but neither really live up to the “Autonomous Database Anywhere” I was thinking about.

I understand the difficulties of this from a hardware, architectural, cultural and political standpoint. I just thought it was an interesting idea. Such is the way my mind wanders these days… 🙂

Cheers

Tim…

PS. I’m not expecting Oracle to even consider this. It was just a thought… 🙂

PPS. Oracle just released Oracle 21C Autonomous Database. Weird coincidence.

Data Pump : API for PL/SQL (DBMS_DATAPUMP) and REST (ORDS)

I’m on holiday, so it’s a lot easier to tick things off my giant list at the moment. 🙂

Someone asked me about the DBMS_DATAPUMP package, which is a PL/SQL API for Data Pump. I knew I had written about it, but it turned out I only had one little example in my main Data Pump article here. I put it on my list to expand it a little with some other common examples. I finally got round to this here.

It’s by no means an exhaustive list of what the DBMS_DATAPUMP package can do, but if someone new is coming to it, it puts a bit more meat on the bones compared to what I had before.

One of the reasons that moved that up the list was I was thinking about looking at the ORDS Database API endpoints related to Data Pump, which resulted in this.

That was a rather odd experience for a few of reasons.

  • There were some issues with authentication. I expected it to work with both the default administrator and an ORDS enabled schema, but it only worked with the latter. That was confusing the hell out of me for a time. I’m told it will work with both in the future…
  • There are two ways to use Data Pump. There is a REST endpoint “/database/datapump/jobs/” that can perform all the actions, and there are two RPC-style endpoints “/database/datapump/export” and “/database/datapump/import”. I decided that RPC is not for me and chose to ignore it. I’m a lot happier with the REST endpoint.
  • The API has extremely limited functionality at the moment.

I guess I was expecting this to feel like a wrapper over the DBMS_DATAPUMP package, but it is not like that at all. In this version it’s an API that covers a few basic tasks and completely locks you out of everything else. I can’t imagine many DBAs being able to use it, but it might be ideal for some developers if you are OK with giving them DBA credentials to the database. I wrote some of my thoughts/concerns at the bottom of the article here.

Despite my reservations, this is effectively version 1.0 of this functionality. I would suggest people try it out and feedback their requirements to the ORDS folks, so it can be improved.

On a more general note, it’s clear the ORDS Database API needs a rethink in terms of access management. It seems to be a bit of an all or nothing at the moment. I think it’s safe to say that as the APIs expand, there will be a range of people needing to use them, each with very different security constraints. I might want someone to be able to perform table or schema-level exports/imports, but I will want to control what they can do, and by giving them the access to do this, it doesn’t mean I want them to be able to run DBCA commands to create new instances as well. I think you get my point. It would seem like the access to the APIs need to respond to the underlying roles and privileges for the user, not using a separate ORDS parameter mechanism. Just my thought…

Cheers

Tim…

Video : Multitenant : Running Scripts Against Multiple Pluggable Databases Using catcon.pl

In today’s video we give a quick demonstration of using catcon.pl to run scripts against multiple pluggable databases (PDBs) in a container database (CDB).

The video is based on one section of this article.

You can find loads of information about living with CDBs and PDBs in the following articles and the YouTube playlist linked below.

The star of today’s video is my long suffering wife Debra Lilley. Clearly suffering because of her social isolation, which of course means not seeing me. 🙂

Cheers

Tim…

Social Distancing : My Experience

The UK has started to relax *some* of the lock-down conditions, so I thought I would write down some of my thoughts related to social distancing…

The Good

First and foremost, social isolation and social distancing is predominantly a good thing for me. I live alone, and as I’ve said many times before I like it that way. There is a “work Tim”, a “conference Tim”, a “with friends/family Tim” and a “home Tim”, and it’s the “home Tim” I’m most comfortable with. I’m not talking about some schizophrenic thing. Just different aspects of my personality that I use to cope with different situations. The only authentic me is when I am home alone.

I keep saying to people I’m living my best life at the moment.

The Bad

Having said all that, it’s not been plain sailing. One thing I’m really struggling with is work-life balance. Before this I mostly worked from the office, and my computer at home was for doing my own thing, like the website and blog etc. Since I’ve been working from home the working day has stretched, which has been made worse by some weekend work. When I do eventually switch off, the thought of doing my own thing is really difficult. I feel like I want to walk away from the computer, so that’s what I’ve been doing a lot. I think the solution to this is to define some different phases of the day and try to stick to them. Things have improved since I’ve been actively trying to do this.

Exercise is another issue. The gym is closed, and I find it really hard to be motivated to do anything other than go to the gym. I’ve done very little exercise, which is really not good as I’m a fatty, and being a fatty is not good at the best of times, but it’s even more problematic at the moment. This week I’ve been going on some bike rides at lunch time. Nothing big. Just getting out of the house and moving a bit. Once again, it’s about trying to define phases of the day.

I started the social isolation/distancing thing about a week before most people in the UK. I go to the shop every few days, and go to pick up a prescription once a month. Apart from that I stay home. I think it’s going to remain this way for quite a long time for me, regardless of what the government suggest.

I feel sorry for people who live alone and don’t like it. I feel sorry for families with kids who are going stir crazy. I can’t relate, but I can sympathise.

The Ugly

What this whole thing has taught me is there are some selfish fuckers out there who should go fuck themselves. People who blatantly ignore the rules, without thinking what impact they are having on others. I kind-of expect this behaviour from young people, as they think they are indestructible and are too dumb to think about the bigger picture, so I give them a free pass. What really pisses me off are adults who don’t seem to give a shit.

You don’t know anything about the people around you. You don’t know what their risk factors are. You don’t know if they are worried about relatives they live with that are vulnerable. It is not your position to judge, and you have no right to put them and their families in danger.

Now I admit some people take it too far, like walking in the road when there is nobody on the path, but for the most part people are being sensible and considerate. For those that are not, see my first sentence in this section!

The Good… Again

Despite that there have also been some really positive things.

  • On the whole people seem friendlier and more considerate at the moment.
  • It’s quieter. Lawn mowers are working overtime, but most of the time things are quiet.
  • Life seems a little calmer.
  • I’m not using petrol.

The Future

Some random thoughts from me.

  • I can’t see myself working full time in an office again. I’m not saying I will never go in, but I don’t see myself doing a 5 day week again. My company used to have some issues with working from home, but now we’ve been forced to do it for a few months, I can see a lot of people never going back to the old ways. I’m not sure how they could justify not allowing working from home on a mass scale now.
  • I think it will be quite some time before I consider travelling again, if ever. I had already scaled back my conference stuff, but maybe it’s over for me now. I may change my mind. Time will tell.
  • I want to consume less. Both from a food perspective, and everything else. I’m not a very materialistic person, but I can still cut back. I want my life to be as minimalist as possible.
  • I understand there will be economic hardships as a result of this pandemic, but I hope it has taught people something about themselves. Life doesn’t need to be some dog-eat-dog race. You don’t need as much as you think you do.

OK. The random bullshit is over for now.

Cheers

Tim…

Video : NTILE : Problem Solving using Analytic Functions

In today’s video we work through some examples of using the NTILE analytic function to solve some specific problems.

The video is based on the following article.

You might find these useful also.

The star of today’s video is Alex Nuijten‘s daughter, but I thought I better include him also or he would get jealous. 🙂

Cheers

Tim…

Oracle Autonomous Database Cloud 2019 Specialist : My Thoughts

You’ve probably heard that Oracle have made some training and certifications free in recent times (here). We are approaching the end of that period now. Only about 15 more days to go.

Initially I thought I might try and do all the certifications, but other factors got in the way, so I just decided to do one. You can probably guess which one by the title of this post. 🙂

I had seen a few people speaking about their experiences of the training videos, so I thought I would give my opinions. Remember, this is my opinion of the training materials and exam, not my opinion of the cloud services themselves. I am also aware that this was free, so my judgement is going to be different than if I had to pay for it.

The Voices in the Videos

A number of people have been critical about the voices on the training videos. I really didn’t see a problem with them.

When you record videos and do presentations you have to decide who your target audience is. A large number of people that use Oracle have English as a second language. Having spent years presenting around the world I’ve learned you have to slow down a bit, or you lose some of the audience. I do this on my YouTube videos, and it can make them sound a bit monotone at times. When I’ve recorded my videos at my normal talking speed, people have responded to say they were brutally fast. You can’t please everyone. You have to make a choice, and for some professional training materials that probably means speaking slower.

I listened to most of these training videos at 1.5 speed and it was fine. The fact I wanted to listen to it this way is not a criticism of the training. I’ve listened to a number of Pluralsite courses at 1.7 speed, and I tend to listen to non-fiction Audible books on a higher speed. You just have to find what works for you.

It’s just my opinion, but I thought the voice was fine.

Content Inconsistencies

There are inconsistencies between the training materials and the documentation. I originally listed some, but I don’t think it’s really helpful. As with any training material, I think it’s worth going through the training material and documentation at the same time and cross referencing them, as well as trying stuff out if you can. It helps you to learn and it makes sure you really know what you are talking about.

Why are there inconsistencies? I suspect it’s because the cloud services have changed since the training materials were recorded. Remember, there is a quarterly push to the cloud, so every three months things might look or act a little different.

What should you do? I would suggest you learn both the training material, and the reality where the two diverge, but assume the training material is correct for the purpose of the exam, even if you know it to be wrong in reality. This is what I’ve done for all previous certifications, so this is nothing new to me.

How did I prepare?

As mentioned above, I watched the videos at 1.5 speed. For any points that were new to me, or I had suspicions about the accuracy, I checked the docs and my own articles on the subject. I also logged into the ADW and ATP services I’m running on the Free Tier to check some things out.

I did the whole of this preparation on Sunday, but remember I’ve been using ADW and ATP on and off since they were released. If these are new to you, you may want to take a little longer. I attempted to book the exam for Monday morning, but the first date I could get was late Wednesday.

Content

The training content is OK, but it contains things that are not specific to Autonomous Database. Sure, they are features that can be used inside, or alongside ADB, but I would suggest they are not really relevant to this training.

Why? I think it’s padding. Cloud services should be easy to use and intuitive, so in many cases I don’t think they should need training and certification. They should lead you down the right path and warn of impending doom. If the docs are clear and accurate, you can always dig a little deeper there.

This certification is not about being a DBA or developer. It’s about using the ADB services. I don’t think there is that much to know about most cloud services, and what really matters goes far beyond the scope of online training and certifications IMHO. 🙂

Free

The training and certifications are free until the middle of May 2020, which is when the new 2020 syllabus and certifications for some of the content comes out. By passing this free certification you are passing the 2019 certification, and they will stay valid for 18 months, then you will have to re-certify or stop using the title. I guess it’s up to you whether you feel a pressing need to re-certify or not.

Update: Some of the other training and exams are already based on the 2020 syllabus. Thanks for Adrian Png for pointing this out. 🙂

I’m sure this would not be popular at Oracle, but I would suggest they keep the cloud training and certifications free forever. Let’s be honest. Oracle are a bit-player in the cloud market. They need all the help they can get to win hearts and minds. Making the cloud training and certification free forever may help to draw people in. I don’t see this type of material as a revenue stream, but I’m sure some folks at Oracle do.

From what I’ve seen, the training materials are entry level, and something I would encourage people to watch before using the services, so why not make them free? That’s rhetorical. I know the answer. 🙂

Would I pay for it?

No. I watched the material to get a feel for what they included. I’m not saying I already knew everything, because I didn’t, but I knew most of what I wanted to know before using this stuff. Of course, if I had come in clean, this would have been pretty helpful I guess, but I think it would have been just as easy for me to use some of the online docs, blog posts and tutorials to get to grips with things. That’s just my opinion though. Other people may feel differently.

Would I have sat the exam if I had to pay for it? No. I don’t think there is anything here that I wouldn’t expect someone to pick up during their first few hours of working with the service. It’s nice that it’s free, but I’m not sure it makes sense to pay for it.

What about the exam?

The exam just proves you have watched the videos and have paid attention. If someone came into my office and said, “Don’t worry, I’m an Oracle Autonomous Database Cloud 2019 Specialist. Everything is going to be OK!”, I would probably lead them to the door…

I don’t think the exam was so much hard, as confusing at times. There were some questions I think need revision, but maybe I’m wrong. 🙂

What about doing the exam online?

This freaked me out a bit. You have to take photos of yourself at your desk, and photos of the room. Somewhere at Pearson Vue they have photos of my washing hanging up. 🙂 You are told not to touch your face, so as soon as I heard that my whole head started to itch. I started to read the first question out loud, and was told I had to sit in silence. I understand all the precautions, and they are fine. It just felt a bit odd. 🙂

So there you have it. Having promised myself I would never certify again, it turns out I’m a liar… 🙂 If you get a chance, give one of the training courses and exams a go. You’ve got nothing to lose. You can read more here.

Cheers

Tim…

Video : Kata Containers : Running Containers Inside Lightweight Virtual Machines on Oracle Linux 7 (OL7)

Today’s video demonstrates how to configure Kata Containers on Oracle Linux 7 (OL7), allowing you to run containers inside lightweight virtual machines (VMs).

This video is is based on an article of the same name, but relates to a bunch of other articles and videos on the subject of containers.

The star of today’s video is Jake Kuramoto, originally of The AppsLab fame, and now at WorkDay.

Cheers

Tim…

Vagrant 2.2.7

Over the weekend I noticed Vagrant 2.2.7 had been released. It came out at the end of January, but I guess most of the time I just start a build and look at something else until it completes, so I didn’t see the glaringly obvious message telling me about the update. 🙂

I use Windows 10, macOS and Oracle Linux 7 (OL7) hosts, so I installed it on all three. Windows and macOS had no dramas. For the Linux host I had to uninstall 2.2.6, then install 2.2.7, as it didn’t want to do the upgrade. It doesn’t make a difference though.

Post upgrade, I’ve done a load of builds on all hosts, and not just Cloud Control 13.4 builds. 🙂 Everything has behaved fine. No problems with Vagrant 2.2.7 and VirtualBox 6.1.2.

Happy days!

Cheers

Tim…

VirtualBox 6.1 : No compatible version of Vagrant yet! (or is there?)

VirtualBox 6.1 was released on the 11th of December and I totally missed it.

The downloads and changelog are in the usual places.

I spotted it this morning, downloaded it and installed in straight away. I had no installation dramas on Windows 10, macoS Catalina and Oracle Linux 7 hosts.

The problem *for me* was the current version of Vagrant (2.2.6) doesn’t support VirtualBox 6.1 yet. I can’t live without Vagrant these days, so I installed VirtualBOx 6.0.14 again and normal life resumed. See Update.

I’m sure there will be a new release of Vagrant soon that supports VirtualBox 6.1, but for now if you use Vagrant, don’t upgrade to VirtualBox 6.1 yet. I’m sure you won’t have to wait long… See Update.

Cheers

Tim…

Update 1 : A couple of people Peter Wahl and Andrea Cremonesi pointed me at this post by Simon Coter, which contains config changes to allow Vagrant 2.2.6 to run with VirtualBox 6.1.

Update 2 : I’ve followed Simon’s post and it worked fine. If you are using Windows 10 as the host and have done a default installation of Vagrant, the files he’s discussing are in these directories.

C:\HashiCorp\Vagrant\embedded\gems\2.2.6\gems\vagrant-2.2.6\plugins\providers\virtualbox\driver\

C:\HashiCorp\Vagrant\embedded\gems\2.2.6\gems\vagrant-2.2.6\plugins\providers\virtualbox\

Update 3 : I updated by work PC also. It required a couple of reboots to get things working. I think it may be something to do with the way we do security here. It’s working fine now.