Oracle Midlands : Event #12


Just a quick reminder, Oracle Midlands Event #12 is just around the corner.

Update: The first talk is now “Why use PL/SQL?” by Bryn Llewellyn.

This is the day after I get back from India, right after my first day back at work. It’s going to be really hard to drag myself there, but I know it will be worth it!






SANGAM15 : It’s nearly here!


In about a week I will be starting my journey to Hyderabad to speak at SANGAM15, the big AIOUG event for India.

I’ve been to India before, when I did the Yathra tour, but this is my first SANGAM event, so I don’t really know what to expect. :)

The plan is:

  • 7 hour flight to Dubai.
  • 2.5 hour layover.
  • 3.5 hour flight to Hyderabad.
  • 2 days in the conference.
  • 4 hour flight to Dubai
  • 2 hour layover.
  • 8 hour flight home.

It’s going to be my last foreign trip this year and it’s going to be a hectic one. :)

If you see me at the conference, please come and speak to me. I love talking about geeky Oracle stuff, so you won’t be disturbing me. :)



VirtualBox 5.0.10


VirtualBox 5.0.10 has been born.

Downloads and changelog in the usual places.

There has been a bit of a discussion on Twitter today about the pros and cons of upgrading VirtualBox. I run VirtualBox on Windows 7 at work and Linux and Mac at home. Unless I’m travelling, I pretty much upgrade straight away. In recent history I only remember one time a patch has caused me problems and forced me to back it out. It seems other people on Twitter have had more issues than me.

I made the jump from VirtualBox 4 to 5 immediately and haven’t suffered at all.

If you are having issues, VirtualBox has a public bugtracker where you should log your problems. If you don’t tell them about your problems, they can only assume you aren’t having them. :)



Which version of Oracle Linux should I pick for Oracle server product installations?


linux-tuxOracle certifies many of their latest products for installation on Oracle Linux 6 and 7, so I guess the obvious question is, which should you pick?

I tend to have a dual approach to this. I always use the latest versions of everything for my play kit, but I tend to be a little conservative for production deployments, preferring to use the OS version the product was developed against. I’ve noticed Oracle Cloud and some VM templates are still using Oracle Linux 6, which makes me think Oracle are being a little conservative too.

We were lucky enough to get some time with Wim Coekaerts during the ACE Director briefing at Oracle OpenWorld 2015. During Wim’s session I asked this very question and (to paraphrase his response) he said, the products are written on Oracle Linux 6, so that’s a safe bet. The products are certified and supported on Oracle Linux 7, so you are fine to choose that, but it doesn’t really matter if you prefer to stick with Oracle Linux 6.

You might be asking yourself, why would I stick with such an old distribution? If you are using Oracle Linux you should be using Oracle’s kernel (currently UEK3), so even if the main distribution is older, you are still getting the latest and greatest kernel updates. This is very different to RHEL, where the kernel functionality is essentially fixed when the distribution is released, then just patched for critical updates. For a database or application server, the kernel is the important thing. You’re not bothered about having the latest version of Firefox on the server. :)

Oracle Linux 6 is supported until 2021, so there is no hurry to get rid of it any time soon. If you are doing new installations, the likelihood is your hardware replacement cycle will kick in before Oracle Linux 6 is out of date. If virtualized, you will probably rebuild your VMs as part of your application software updates within this time-scale also. :)

So in conclusion, don’t be afraid to make the jump to Oracle Linux 7, but equally, don’t be afraid to stick with Oracle Linux 6… Neither choice is a bad one in this case.



PS. For non-Oracle installations, there may be other more pressing reasons to jump to version 7. I’ve intentionally avoided mentioning systemd and firewalld. I don’t have time for that war. :)

Fedora 23 and Oracle 11gR2/12cR1


A few months ago I mentioned doing some Fedora 22 installations. At the time I did some pre-emptive installations on the Alpha release of Fedora 23 also.

Now the final release of Fedora 23 is out, I’ve run through the articles again to make sure things are all ship-shape.

It’s pretty much as it was before, with the nice bonus that the “MATE Desktop” package group has been fixed. Happy days! :)

As always, installations of Oracle server products on Fedora are not a great idea, as explained here.

If you do like playing with this stuff, knock yourself out… :)



The Eternal Newbie


It’s been over a decade since I first heard Tom Kyte talking about Project Marvel, which eventually became Application Express (APEX). Since then I’ve “used” just about every version of APEX. I use the term “used” very loosely, because I typically use APEX for a few days to get a job done, then never touch it again for months. By the time I come back, I pretty much have to start the learning process from the beginning again.

This is a perfect example of the “Eternal Newbie”. I could quite legitimately put 10+ years experience of APEX (including previous names) on my CV and it wouldn’t be a lie, but in reality I’m only about as good as any PL/SQL developer that’s been playing with APEX for a week.

It’s not that APEX is difficult, quite the contrary, but the process of getting good at anything takes time and repetition. You’ve probably heard the variations on “10,000 hours to become an expert” saying. It doesn’t matter that it’s not true or accurate. What matters is it highlights the need for time, repetition and constantly striving to improve. A little plodding once in a while does not count for experience in my book.

As an example of this, on Friday I was trying to get something to work with a Shuttle control in APEX 5.0.2. I found a couple of great examples on Dmitri‘s and Denes blogs, which (I thought) got me 90% of the way to what I wanted to achieve, but the last 10% took me half of Friday, then the whole of Saturday evening. If I was actually any good at this stuff it would have probably taken me 2 mins. What’s more, if I was good, I would have probably realised Dmitri and Denes’ examples actually got me to 99.9% of what I was trying to achieve, but my inexperience meant I kept shooting myself in the foot. After all that time playing and reading, I felt like a master of Shuttle controls in APEX, but if I don’t look at APEX for a week I’m going to be totally screwed. I have some knowledge now, but it will take repetition to make it stick, and based on past experience, that’s not going to happen. :)

I did a video a few months ago about the term “Senior” in relation to IT jobs. My recent fumblings with APEX made me think about this subject again.

With my 10+ years of APEX experience, I’m obviously a “Senior APEX Developer”. Just remind me, how do I alter a breadcrumb? :)



Microsoft Outlook : When Bad UX Attacks!


I guess there are lots of problems with the User eXperience (UX) of Microsoft Outlook, but the one that kills me is the popup menu in the folders pane.

I’m not sure how other people use this, but for me, the number one thing I do is “Delete All”, closely followed by “Mark All as Read”. I have a bunch or rules that “file” irrelevant crap, which I later scan through and typically delete en masse.

So what’s the problem?

The folder operations are higher up the menu, so I’m constantly doing “Delete Folder”, rather than “Delete All”, which drives me mad. Especially when I don’t notice and all my rules start failing.

Like I said, I don’t know how other people use this stuff, but I would hazard a guess that the clean-up operations are used more frequently than the actual folder maintenance operations. This is one situation when having the most frequently used sections of the menu being promoted to the top would be really handy.

Of course, I could just pay more attention… :)



Twitter : Is it a valuable community contribution? (Follow Up)


There was some pretty interesting feedback on yesterday’s post, so I thought I would mention it in a follow up post, so it doesn’t get lost in the wasteland of blog comments. :)

Remember, I wasn’t saying certain types of tweets were necessarily good or bad. I was talking about how *I* rate them as far as content production and how they *might* be rated by an evangelism program…

  • Social Tweets : A few people including Martin, Oyvind, Stew and Hermant, mentioned how social tweets are good for binding the community and helping to meet other like-minded people. I agree and I personally like the more random stuff that people post. The issue was, does this constitute good content that should be considered for your inclusion in an evangelism program? I would say no.
  • Timeline : Baback, Matthew, Noons, Hermant all mentioned things about the timeline issue associated with Twitter. Twitter is a stream of conciousness, so if you tune out for a while (to go to bed) or you live in a different time zone to other people, it is easy for stuff to get lost. You don’t often come across an old tweet, but you will always stumble upon old blog posts and articles, thanks to the wonders of Google. :) The quick “disappearance” of information is one of the reasons I don’t rate Twitter as a good community contribution.
  • Notifications : There was much love for notification posts. These days I quite often find things via Twitter before I notice them sitting in my RSS reader. I always post notifications and like the fact others do too, but as I said yesterday, it is the thing you are pointing too that is adding the most value, not the notification tweet. The tweet is useful to direct people to the content, but it in itself does not seem like valuable community participation to me, just a byproduct of being on Twitter.
  • Content Aggregation : Stew said an important point where content aggregation is concerned. If you tweet a link to someone else’s content, you are effectively endorsing that content. You need to be selective.
  • Audience : Noons mentioned the audience issue. Twitter is a public stream, but being realistic, the only people who will ever notice your tweets are those that follow you, those you tag in the tweet or robots mindlessly retweeting hashtags. Considering the effective lifespan of a tweet, it’s a rather inefficient mechanism unless you have a lot of followers, or some very influential followers.

So I’m still of a mind that Twitter is useful, but shouldn’t be the basis of your community contribution if you are hoping to join an evangelism program. :)



Update: I’ve tried to emphasize it a number of times, but I think it’s still getting lost in the mix. This is not about Twitter=good/bad. It’s about the value you as an individual are adding by tweeting other people’s content, as opposed to creating good content yourself. All community participation is good, but just tweeting other people’s content is less worthy of attention *in my opinion*, than producing original content.

If someone asked the question, “What do I need to do to become an Oracle ACE?”, would you advise them to tweet like crazy, or produce some original content? I think that is the crux of the argument. :)

Of course, it’s just my opinion. I could be wrong. :)

Owning Your Content


Another thing that came out of my conversation with Zahid Anwar at OOW15, was about owning your content.

If your intention is to make a name for yourself in the community, it’s important you think about your “brand”. Most of us old-timers didn’t have to worry about this, and sometimes get a bit snooty about the idea of it, but we started early, so it was relatively easy to get noticed. For new people on the scene, it’s a much harder proposition.

It’s possible to write content on sites like Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn, but I’m not sure that’s the best way to promote “your brand”. In some communities it might be the perfect solution, but in others I think you are in danger of becoming a faceless contributor to their brand.

In my opinion, it would be better to start a blog or website, then post links to your content to the other resources as part of promoting yourself. That way, you remain the owner of the content and it helps promote your brand.

I’ve said similar stuff to this in my Writing Tips series.



Twitter : Is it a valuable community contribution?


During a conversation with Zahid Anwar at OOW15, the question was asked, is Twitter content a valuable contribution to the community?

The following is *my opinion* on the matter. Other opinions are valid.

The sort of tweets I see fall into the following basic categories:

  • Technical Questions and Answers. When these are done well, they are really useful and a quick way to get to the bottom of something. When answers come as links to content, that’s really cool as there is some depth to the answer. An answer in 140 chars is not always so good, and is often missing vital information that usually starts in a flame/caveat war. Though I do think of this as a useful community contribution, I think this sort of thing is better dealt with in a forum. I guess you could maybe Tweet about the question to raise some attention, but that feels a bit like the “URGENT” prefix to a question, which turns many people off. :)
  • Notifications. Tweeting about your latest blog post, article or video is part of getting your message out to your followers, but the tweets have little or no value in themselves. It’s just self promotion, which we all do. It’s the things you are promoting that hopefully have value, not the tweets themselves. In this sense, the tweets are not a valuable community contribution.
  • Content Aggregation. Tweeting other people’s content is a good way to introduce your followers to it and “spread a specific message”. I do this when I read something I really like, or if I am trying to help promote someone who I think deserves more attention. I think you have to be careful not to become a “blog aggregator by proxy” and blanket tweet everything you come across, or the value of your tweets drops. It just feels like lazy way to look busy. Just my opinion though. I’m sure there are people out there that love it.
  • Random tweets. These can give you some insight into the individuals that make up the community, which I like, but there is no long term value in these, even if they are fun. :)

If you are trying to get on to a community program, like the Oracle ACE Program, *I would* rate twitter contributions quite low. I would focus on stuff where you are providing original content (blogging, whitepapers, books, YouTube etc) or directly helping people, like forums or presenting. Short-form social media is a nice addition, but it’s value is rather limited in my opinion.

Remember, it’s just my opinion, but I’m interested to know your thoughts.



Update: I think it’s worth clarifying my point some more. I don’t have a problem with any of these types of tweets. I do them all to a greater or lesser extent. The point I’m trying to make (badly), is the content that is pointed to is the “high value” in my opinion. The “pointer” (tweet) is of far less value. If someone came to me and said, “I tweet a lot about other people’s content, can I join your community program (if I had one), I would probably say no and encourage them to produce their own content. That was the context of the conversation that initiated this post. :)