Tornado in Brum!

It seems my recent visits to the osteopath always coincide with something strange happening.

Yesterday on my way to the osteopath the road was blocked by a fallen tree. I took a diversion and thought nothing more of it. During my treatment the osteopath received a call from his wife asking if he was OK because a street one mile away had been hit by a tornado for a few seconds and some buildings had been trashed. We didn’t even know it had happened.

Later, when I got more details I realized the center of the damage was right next to a friends house. Luckily he escaped unharmed.

The UK has a reputation for unpredictable weather (cold and rainy in summer and sunny in the winter), but this is kind of freaky. The weather this year has been completely bizarre. The sooner we sort out global warming the better!

I’m sure all you guys living in tornado, monsoon and earthquake zones find this pretty trivial, but it’s a big thing for Birmingham 🙂



TNS-12157 TNS:internal network communication error

It’s getting difficult and a little depressing trying to make a blog comment or forum post these days. It seems every time you do you risk offending someone.

Tag me stupid, baby! seemed more than a little relevant.

The comments associated with some high-profile blogs only serve to depress me more. It’s like the pedants and PC freaks have come out in force lately. I don’t know what the answer is and I’m sure, like everyone else, I am part of the problem, but I think everyone should take a step back from the keyboard and chill out!

I’m not sure how I’m going to approach my next posts as my enthusiasm has died a little due to all this.

Remember, this post is not about you, it’s not a criticism of you and if you take it that way you are merely proving my point.



It’s clobbering time!

I went to see “The Fantastic 4” at the cinema over the weekend. I though it was pretty cool, but it did suffer from the usual problem of spending half the film telling you how they became superheros. Why anyone would want to make Jessica Alba invisible is beyond me 🙂

I think I’m going to buy my one nephew (3.5 years old) a “Thing” action figure if I see one. Just before the film was released in the UK he saw a picture of Thing in a magazine and the following exchange happened.

James: What’s that?
Me: It’s a man called Thing.
James: What’s wrong with his skin? Is he poorly?
Me: No.
James: Is he made of rock?
Me: Yes.
James: Why has he got big boots on?
Me: Because he’s got big feet.
James: Why? …. Repeat to infinity.

Still makes me laugh thinking of the thought process. Kids brains are cool!

On the subject of James, while I was visiting him this weekend he took my Ganesha figure that I always carry in my pocket and hid it in one of his wellington boots. Needless to say that got found after I left, so I’m without him for a whole week. He’s been with me for a few months now, so I’m feeling a little lost without him.



The calm after the storm…

Things are just starting to return to normal… I hope 🙂

The disruption associated with the production hardware reconfiguration seems to have calmed down now. Of course, not all of the problems were associated directly with the hardware changes, but the time you spend on one problem distracts you from other jobs you should be doing, which in turn creates new issues.

We have finally moved all the database backups over to RMAN against HP Data Protector, rather than the disk-based RMAN backups we were doing before. The software seems to work fine, but the physical processes are taking some time to get used to. Rather than having a tape labeled “Monday night application X backup”, we now have a bank of tapes in a media pool that can hold portions of several backups. It’s not rocket science, but it can be a bit of a culture shock when you start changing processes that have been in place for years. It takes a while for people to get used to the idea that you don’t know which tapes must be removed and taken offsite until the software tells you.

Fun, fun, fun 🙂



SQLdetective Review

I was recently asked to review a product called SQLdetective, so here it is.

Q. What’s it for?
A. It’s for developers and DBAs and anyone else who does anything with an Oracle database.

Q. What features does it have?
A. It has everything you’ve come to expect from a general purpose DBA/Developer IDE. I’m not even going to attempt to list them because it would take forever. Suffice to say, if you’ve seen it in another product, it’s probably here.

Q. What’s it look like?
A. You can look at a bunch of screen shots here. Like most current IDEs it’s a bit busy. Not as plain as PL/SQL Developer, but not as busy as TOAD. The icons are “different”, but I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing.

Q. What’s it feel like?
A. I seems quite quick and responsive, but it does some odd things, like when you highlight a table in the navigator the default operation is to show you a page of data. I doubt this would be the first thing I would want to see.

Q. What’s it cost?
A. The basic price is US$99, but if you want all the add-on modules it’s going to cost a total of US$198. So the cost depends on what you need. It’s difficult to compare prices because you rarely have to pay list prices and each IDE has different optional modules. It’s more expensive than the free version of TOAD, and now JDeveloper is free you can do all your PL/SQL development and debugging using that if you’ve got the hardware to run it 🙂

Q. Tim, would you buy it?
A. If I was forced to use an IDE I would use TOAD or JDeveloper for free. I have both loaded on my PC and I never use them. If I was forced to buy a license for an IDE I would consider this product. My company recently bought licenses for PL/SQL Developer, but I still use a text editor and SQL*Plus 🙂


If you really want to pay money for an IDE give this one a try. It’s got a lot of stuff in it. Alternatively, write good intrumented code and save yourself the cash.

I guess I could just copy and paste this review about almost any of the current IDEs, but at least I’ve kept my promise…



Firefox 1.0.6 and RAC update.

Looks like Firefox 1.0.6 is out, but the update checker doesn’t know it… Again.

Got through a night without a server crash on the production RAC. Feels like the old days again 🙂



PS. Posted two more chapters to the publisher today. That leaves me with one new one to write and one to tighten up then I’m finished. Must crack on and get it sorted before I have a nervous break down cause by a complete lack of sleep 🙂

2 become 0, occasionally…

It’s been an “interesting” couple of days.

Since we moved to the new configuration we’ve have had some intermittent server crashes, including one last night where both nodes crashed simultaneously. We’ve applied an OS patch that is meant to solve the problem, but we’re still in the “fingers crossed” stage at the moment. It’s meant some busy nights and annoyed users, but we’re moving forward.

You’ve gotta love it…. Not!



3 become 2, RAC nodes that is…

This weekend our production system was switched from a 3-node to a 2-node RAC.

We were originally using a 2-node RAC (2 CPUs per node) and we added a third node because the system was struggling to cope with the workload. The third node helped us out in some ways, but it caused a lot of trouble in others. Ever since it’s inclusion it became impossible to take one node out of the RAC without bringing the lot crashing down, so much for high availability. In addition, a substantial proportion (about 30%) of the wait states on the system were due to inter-node communication. Now I expected with more nodes there would be more inter-node communication, but it seems a bit excessive. Heaven only knows what would happen in a 4-node cluster…

After a lot of banter with Oracle and HP we’ve finally decided to try a 2-node RAC again, but this time with 3 CPUs per node. OK, it’s actually 4 CPUs per node, but one CPU in each node is permanently offlined, so as not to affect our current Oracle licensing.

All the hardware modifications are complete and all tests indicate that the system is up and running normally. Of course the true test will happen tomorrow morning when the users log in and start to break things 🙂

The best news of all is that the move back to a 2-node cluster means that we can once again shut down one node at a time if we need to do maintenence. This is a big plus.

If everything goes quiet over the next few days it means that I’m fire-fighting and the switchover didn’t go well.

I’d be curious to see how many people out there are using RAC on more than 2 nodes. I’ve only done this on Tru64 with 1og Release 1, but I can say without a shadow of a doubt that it doesn’t work properly. I’m curious if this is Tru64 specific problem or if there is a fundamental flaw in RAC for clusters with more than 2 nodes.



The ever changing Oracle pricing model…

You’ve got to take your hat off to Oracle. Just when you thought they couldn’t make their pricing model any more ridiculous they come up with this gem. I guess we should be grateful that they’ve conceded this much. Prior to this announcement a single dual core processor was charged the same as two individual processors, even though it didn’t have the same performance.

Of course nobody pays list price for Oracle, but it is used to calculate the support and updates costs, so it’s in their interest to keep it artificially high.

I always find the TPC pricings a laugh. Oracle sounds real cheap until you realize they’ve only included a 3 year license. I’ve worked with Oracle products for over 10 years and I’ve yet to work for a company that has bought Oracle this way. They have all bought perpetual licenses for some serious wonga! Maybe we’re living in the dark ages in the UK 🙂

We’ve got some 3rd party applications running on mySQL and they work really well. Nice and cheap too. Well actually it’s free. We’ve got a few 3rd party applications running against SQL Server and they do the job nicely too. We’re looking to switch another project from Oracle to SQL Server part way through the implementation after some confusion over the Oracle licensing costs. It doesn’t take many incidents like this within a company before some momentum builds up and people start opting for cheaper alternatives.

Whenever anyone mentions licensing costs to me I hide under the desk. I’m a grunt, not an accountant!



Life is funny!

My osteopath just told me two funny stories today.

He treated a guy this week who had been drafted in as part of a team to organize a large firework display in Birmingham. The fireworks were all stored safely, but the guys took their homemade detonators back to the hotel with them. A cleaner walked in, saw all the gear, flipped and called the police. Next thing you know the police storm in arrest the guys and evacuate the center of Birmingham. The papers claim local businesses (mostly pubs) lost more than 1 million pounds of business as a result of the evacutation. If this sounds familiar see Welcome to my world!

You can imagine the scene down at the police station.

Firework guy: We’re not linked to Al Qaeda! We’re just preparing for Fireworks Fantasia!
Police: Now listen here sonny Jim, we weren’t born yesterday…

I know it’s not a funny subject, but it made me laugh.

One of his patients took their 20 year old Down’s Syndrome son to a local zoo & theme park recently. Whilst there he repeatedly asked to go on the log flume ride, which they refused because they didn’t want him to get wet. At one point he went off on his own and when he returned he was soaked through. Naturally they assumed he had gone on the log flume ride, which he denied. When they got home the boy went to his room leaving his mother to unpack the bags. When she opened her son’s rucksack she found a penguin staring at her!

She rang the zoo, who said, “We’ll check if it’s one of ours!”, to which she replied, “Where else would he get a penguin from in Birmingham?”. Anyway, they fed the penguin pilchards until a man from the zoo came to pick it up.

I can only assume that the guy has seriously quick reflexes or it was one tame penguin!

I cannot guarantee that either of these stories are true, but they had me in stitches between blood-curdling crunches of my spine!



PS. My back feels good now! I reckon I’ll be OK to go to Karate tomorrow 🙂