BGOUG Spring 2017 : The Journey Home

I got up at about 08:00 and headed down to breakfast, where I met a bunch of conference folks. Some of the people were leaving early, so when we were done we said our goodbyes. I then went back to my room for a few hours before heading down to the lobby for my lift back to Sofia. I got talking to Bryn about REST, JSON, ORDS and PL/SQL, which carried on during the journey to Sofia in Milena‘s car. 🙂

Rather than leave stupidly early from Pravets to get an early flight on Sunday, I decided to leave the following day, which meant staying over in Sofia for a day. Milena dropped me off at the hotel and I spent the rest of the day in my room on the computer.

The plan was I would be able to get loads of sleep and wake up at 04:00 to leave for my flight. The reality was I stayed awake until about 03:30. I don’t know why, but I just couldn’t sleep. There was nothing wrong with my room, but for some reason sleep didn’t come until ist was too late. At 04:00 my alarm went off and I felt like I had been kicked in the head. It might have been better to not drift off just before my alarm.

I got cleaned up, packed the last of my stuff (including my laptop charger this time) and headed down to check out and get the shuttle to the airport.

The airport was pretty busy. I couldn’t do an online check-in as my ticket was KLM, but the first leg of the trip was Bulgarian Air, so I had to queue at the check-in and bag-drop area, at the entrance to the gates, at security and at passport control. The queues were quite big, but moved quickly, so it wasn’t a problem.

The flight from Sofia to Amsterdam took about 2.5 hours. We were a little late, but the gate for my next flight was close, so it wasn’t too much of a worry.

The flight from Amsterdam to Birmingham took about 50 minutes. I arrived in Birmingham to 12 degrees C and rain, so it felt like being home. 🙂 It was a quick ride home in the taxi, where I discovered my car had been stolen while I was away. 🙁 That gives me something to whine about for a bit, and I’m only happy when I’m moaning. I’ll put some washing on to cheer me up. 🙂

Thanks to the folks from DXC for asking me to come across and spend the day with you before the conference. Special thanks to Milena and everyone else from BGOUG for inviting me and making everything go so smoothly during my 7th visit to Bulgaria. Thanks to all the attendees for making this such a friendly event. I paid for this trip myself, but I would still like to thank the Oracle ACE Program for letting me fly the flag.

So that is my 7th BGOUG event over. I’m looking forward to number 8. See you all soon!



PS. Posts for this conference include the following, some of which have brief videos. 🙂

BGOUG Spring 2017 : Day 2

Breakfast at 07:30 was surprisingly busy considering the late night. Food, coffee and chatting. 🙂

After that I went back to the room to finish off the blog post about the previous day. Then it was time to start the day proper.

The first session of the day was “Utilizing the data attribute: Client-side behaviour in APEX” by Richard Martens. I’m an eternal newbie at APEX, so its good to keep turning up to APEX sessions to see what a real APEX developer can do. 🙂

Next up was Joel Goodman with “Oracle Database 12cR2 Application Containers”. We chatted before the conference to make sure our sessions didn’t overlap too much. I like going to see other presenters covering similar topics to me. It’s good to see how they approach the topics and to get their opinions on a feature.

Next up was “Oracle Compute Cloud vs. Amazon Web Services EC2 – A Hands-On Showdown” by Ahmed Aboulnaga. This was another session where I was getting someone else’s view on a subject I present about. It was interesting to hear his views on the differences in pricing and maintenance of the two providers, and their move from AWS to Oracle Public Cloud.

I got talking to Bryn at lunch and someone said, “Don’t you have a session in 2 minutes?” Quick dash to the room and it was me with “Put your feet up and take a REST. Take a tour of JSON support in the Oracle database”.

Next up was “Exadata on-premises or in the cloud? The reasoning for our decision” by Elise Valin-Raki and Heli Helskyaho. The title of the session pretty well sums up what this was about. Literally going through the evaluation and decision process. By the way, they chose on-prem. 🙂

After that it was a panel session, mostly focussed on security and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Lots of interesting conversation and yes, I had a drink during the session and was a bit drunk! 🙂

From there is was off to get some food and do more chatting. I got to have a longer chat with Julian Dontcheff, which was really nice. We have known each other since our days answering questions on, and we always speak at events all the time, but it was good to spend some more time with him.

Gradually the food and beer took its toll and I switched into hibernate mode, so I said my goodbyes and went back to my room.

That marks the end of another fantastic BGOUG event. I’ll save my proper thank you messages for a wrap-up post when I get home, but for now I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who came to the event! See you at breakfast tomorrow. 🙂



PS. It seems I pressed publish when this post was half-written. Whoops!

PPS. It takes very little to get me drunk… 🙂

BGOUG Spring 2017 : Day 1

Day 1 started with far too much for breakfast, followed by trying to rehearse a new presentation as my laptop complained about having no power.

The first session of the day was “Oracle Database Links” by Joel Goodman. I don’t care what the subject is, and how much you think you know about it, you will always come out of a session by Joel saying, “Well I never knew that!” I learnt some new stuff which I will now pretend I always knew! 🙂

The next session I went to was Julian Dontcheff with “45 most useful new DBA commands in Oracle 12.2″. I like sessions like this that act like an index of new features. A load of pointers to remind me what I should be learning. 🙂 There is so much in 12.2 it’s both fun and depressing rolled into one. So much to learn and so little time.

After that it was me with”Multitenant : What’s new in 12.2”. It’s impossible to fit all the new features into 1 hour, so I cherry picked a few and covered those, then listed the others and spoke briefly about them. The session was based on these articles. This was the first time I’ve done this presentation and I was a bit nervous, so I think I spoke a bit too fast. Hopefully people got the message that multitenant rules. 🙂

After lunch I went to see Giuseppe Maxia with “A quick tour of MySQL 8.0 roles”. This was really useful for me. There are some similarities to roles in Oracle, but also some really important differences too. I have been looking forward to this new feature, and this session will definitely save me time and some headaches when using it.

From there it was on to Ilmar Kerm with “Implementing incremental forever strategy for Oracle database backups”. This was based around Incrementally Updated Image Copy Backups, but included some custom stuff they do with their storage. I’m always interested to see how people use the same tech as me, but use it in a different way. I can see how his approach may prove useful in a project I’ve got coming up soon. Interesting!

The final session of the day for me was “Exadata : The Road Ahead” by Roger MacNicol. I know next to nothing about Exadata, so I feel like a total tourist when I’m in sessions about it. I think I may have sown the seed for a joint blog post between Roger and Jonathan Lewis though. 🙂

From there is was back to my room to catch up on work and blogging, before going to the evening event. 🙂

I was a little late for the start of the evening event, but I got some food and watched the dancers do their thing. As that came to an end they got the crowd started by leading them in a dance, before leaving us to our own devices. I displayed my usual expert Bulgarian dancing skills. If you see any pictures or videos of a baby elephant waddling and sweating a lot, that is not me! 🙂

At about midnight I turned into a pumpkin and went back to my room to bed!



BGOUG Spring 2017 : Day Off?

On my last visit to Bulgaria I got chatting to Todor Grigorov and I agreed to come and speak to his team at DXC the next time I was in Bulgaria. Once I knew my sessions had been accepted for this conference I dropped him a line and said I was still up for it if he was interested, and so a plan was hatched. That’s why I arrived in Bulgaria a day early for a “day off”. 🙂

At 08:30 Todor picked me up and took me to the DXC office, we all sat in a room and just started to talk. Rather than doing presentations, the idea was for this to be a day long informal question and answer session. This sort of thing can be quite daunting, especially when some of the people asking questions are better at this stuff than me, but it’s good to challenge yourself. The questions ranged from specific to general, and I gave answers ranging from technical to opinion. There were a couple of storage related questions I dodged with the line, “Email me your question and I’ll send it on to someone who will be able to answer it!” 🙂

There was one storage question from Krasimir Kovachki that confused the hell out me. I thought he said “Team Provisioning” and I guess I must have looked like a rabbit in the headlights. A bit later was speaking to him and it dawned on me he had said “Thin Provisioning”, at which point his question made so much more sense and we had a discussion about that. That made me laugh. 🙂

At lunch time we went out to get some food and guess who appeared on the TV behind us? That’s Krasimir next to me. By the way, this photo was taken by another Krasimir. 🙂

After lunch we got some drinks and went to sit in a park to continue the question and answer session in a less formal environment. I also got to try some boza and banitsa. 🙂

It was a really fun day and it was nice to meet the ladies and gents that make up the team at DXC. Thanks for making me feel so welcome!

At about 16:00 Todor drove me to take a quick look at The Bells Monument, and waited for me to ring the UK bell before telling me adults weren’t supposed to ring them. 🙂 From there it was a quick trip over to the Hilton to meet up with Bryn Llewellyn and Roger MacNicol for our ride across to the RIU Pravets Resort, ready for the first day of the BGOUG Spring 2017 conference the following day.

I got into my room, unpacked my stuff and it was then I noticed I didn’t have my laptop charger. Panic! I rang the hotel in Sofia, who had found it in my room, and said “someone” would be picking it up for me. I sent a panic email to Milena and Todor and we arranged for Todor to pick it up on his way to the conference the next day. Phew!

That did leave me with no juice in the laptop, hence this blog post is coming out a day late and some work stuff has backed up. 🙂

In the evening we walked round to the golf course on the other side of the lake and had some food. It was a really nice end to a very busy day!

The next post will be about Day 1 of the conference (today). 🙂



BGOUG Spring 2017 : The Journey Begins

Waking up at 03:00 is stupid! When I wake at this sort of hour I tend to feel kind-of sick unless I’m distracted. Fortunately the taxi driver was pretty cool, which helped me forget about how miserable I felt. 🙂

You never know what you are going to get at the airport. Last time the queues were massive, but fortunately I had fluked a business class ticket so I walked straight past them. This time the security was empty, so I walked straight through, even with my economy ticket. That’s great, but you start to kid yourself you could have come an hour later and slept some more. 🙂

The first flight of the day was from Birmingham to Amsterdam. The plane had a lot of free space, so boarding was quick. We left on time and the flight took about 40 minutes.

A connection time of a little over a hour can sometimes be a problem in Amsterdam. It’s a big airport and if you catch the gates wrong, it can be a bit of a panic to get to your connection. This time my departure gate was next to the arrival gate.

I wrote a lengthy bitch about the airport and the lead up to the next flight, but it was because I was tired and emotional. Actually it was fine.

The next flight went well. It took about 2.5 hours to get form Amsterdam to Sofia and ended with possibly the best landing I’ve ever experienced.

I was met at the airport by Todor Grigorov, who took me to my hotel. I’ll be spending tomorrow with him and his team at DXC Technology doing a free form Q&A. It’s like a job interview with 40+ people on the panel, and no job at the end of it. 🙂



Bulgarian Oracle User Group (BGOUG) 2016 : It’s a Wrap!

bgougSo that marks the end of my 6th BGOUG event. I’m already planning to return next year. 🙂

As part of this event I put out the following blog posts.

I’ve already said it, but my thanks got out to Milena and all the BGOUG folks for inviting me once again. Thanks to all the attendees. Thanks as always to the Oracle ACE Program.

See you all again soon!



Bulgarian Oracle User Group (BGOUG) 2016 : Pravets to Birmingham

bgougA group of us were being picked up by a minibus at 09:50 for the trip back to the airport. Timo Raitalaakso and Gianni Ceresa were on the same flight as me for the first leg. We said our goodbyes to everyone in the hotel lobby, then it was off to Sofia airport.

The airport was very quiet when we arrived. We checked in and dropped off our bags, then walked straight through security. It really doesn’t get easier than that. Timo, Gianni and myself then sat and chatted until the it was time to board.

The flight to Munich was listed as a two hour flight, but I have no idea how long it actually took. I was reading a novel written by one of my friends during the trip. The guy a couple of seats along was snoring so loud it kept making me laugh. I’m not sure how anyone could sleep in the same house as him!

We arrived at Munich, where I said goodby to Timo and Gianni, before trudging around for quite some time trying to find my gate. It was a 1:40 layover for me, so it wasn’t a rush.

The flight from Munich to Birmingham was another two hour flight. I spent the journey reading again, so I didn’t really notice much about the flight.

Back in Birmingham, I got my case and took a taxi home, while continuing to read my book. By the time I got home I was feeling quite drained, so I went to bed early, ready to start the working week!

That marked the end of my last international event of the year and I’m looking forward to spending some time at home in a single timezone. The last few months have been a killer!



Bulgarian Oracle User Group (BGOUG) 2016 : Day 2

bgougI planned to go to breakfast for a few minutes and then hit the gym. I got caught up in conversation during breakfast and several hours later the gym was not an option.

I headed off to the Christian Berg‘s session called “Back2Basics – 50 Shades of #Fail: OBI Worst Practices in Real Life”. I know next to nothing about OBIEE so this was me checking out something new to me. it quickly became obvious quite how little I knew as it all shot completely over my head…

Next up was me with “Pluggable Databases – What they will break and why you should use them anyway!” This session is getting increasingly difficult to present as I pick up new stuff about Oracle 12.2. Once I’ve spent some time on 12.2 I will revise this session and the associated article. I think it is still relevant in the 12.2 world, but it may need a little tweaking.

I spent some time chatting to people before the last session of the event, which was called “Discussion Over Beers About Oracle Database” with Joze Senegacnik, Martin Widlake, Bryn Llewellyn and myself. Most of the session was a discussion of cloud and what it means to the current batch of DBAs. As Bryn pointed out, it is quite a hard subject to talk about when everyone in the room seems to have a different definition of what cloud means. Added to that, I’m not sure I know what job is currently described by DBA, as mine seems to be very different to everyone elses.

That marked the end of the day, so after a bit more chatting, we headed off to the hotel restaurant. In addition to the regular food I got myself some chocolate cake that was so rich and heavy it seemed to drain the life out of me. Rather than a sugar rush, it felt more like it gave me a stroke. 🙂 I excused myself and crashed out for the night…

Big thanks to Milena and all the BGOUG folks for inviting me and making my stay so effortless. Thanks to all the attendees. This conference is going from strength to strength! Thanks also to the Oracle ACE Program for letting me fly the flag.

See you all soon!



Bulgarian Oracle User Group (BGOUG) 2016 : Day 1

bgougI woke up, went down to breakfast, then went off to the gym. By the time that was all over I felt totally knackered.

I headed down to register and quickly moved to the first talk of the day, which was Martin Widlake with “The Heart of Oracle – How the core RDBMS works”. As the name suggests, this was a romp through the basics of how the Oracle database does what it does, which by his own admission included some over simplifications. As a presenter it’s easy to get caught up in trying to present “cool stuff”, or trying to “impress your friends”. It’s easy to forget about the newer folks who aren’t coming to the conference with all the basics in place. These days, there’s a lot of “experienced” people who also don’t have all the basics too. 🙂 I like this type of session and I think there is an audience for it.

After the session I was feeling very drained. The recent time zone changes and a night of broken sleep (body clock related) got to me, so I parked myself in the hotel lobby, caught up on some blog posts, video editing and then turned my brain off to do some mindless admin stuff I’ve been putting off for a couple of months. I feel kind-of guilty coming to such a great conference in such a beautiful place and not taking full advantage of it, but I’m in survival mode at the moment.

I met up with some of the folks over lunch and went outside (yes, outside) for the group photo, then it was back to the lobby for a while until my session.

I did my “It’s raining data! Oracle databases in the cloud” session, with some live demos of Oracle Cloud. Depending on my mood, this session can sometimes be rather upbeat and at other times be rather cynical of cloud in general. This one leaned more towards the cynical side. I think cloud is a very valuable tool when used correctly. It is not the solution to all problems that some people would like you to believe. Doing my session brought me back to life.

There was a gap between the last session and the evening’s festivities, so I went to the gym again. It was either that or lie in my room and I would definitely have slept through the party.

I got to the evening party a little late and things were already in swing. I sat down, had some food and then the entertainment started. I would describe this as the Bulgarian answer to The Three Tenors. During some songs the singers were joined by three ballet dancers. Once these performances were over, we got to the Bulgarian dancing. Milena found me and we joined the line… It’s been a couple of years, so it took a while for my brain and feet to start speaking to each other, but that just adds to the fun. 🙂

After a while the singers returned to do some more pop-style numbers, which kept the crowd going and then it switched to a DJ playing pop songs and people dancing.

This is my sixth visit to a BGOUG events and ever since my first I’ve described the events as being like a family wedding without the fights. I spent the evening with a smile on my face thinking, I really need to come back more often! The people are so happy. The male/female ratio is always the best you will see at a tech conference. It feels like coming home.

I went to bed at about 00:00 with the party still in full swing. I pretty much put my head on the pillow and fell into a coma until 06:00 this morning.

Let’s see what day 2 will bring… 🙂



Bulgarian Oracle User Group (BGOUG) 2016: Birmingham to Pravets, Bulgaria

bgougI purposely didn’t try and get back into the UK time zone because I knew I had an early start for this trip. My alarm was set for 03:00, but I was up from 02:00. Even so, I still managed to be late for the taxi. 🙂

At that time in the morning the roads were clear so the drive to the airport was super fast. The airport was very quiet, which was a bit of a surprise as most of the cheap flights leave at silly times, so often the early starts are very busy. After walking straight through bag drop and security I parked myself at a cafe and opened my laptop.

As you probably know, Oracle 12.2 has been made available on the Oracle Database Cloud Service and like everyone else with an account I created an instance to play with it. This morning my 1 year trial account ended. 🙁 I had tried to get it renewed, but this hadn’t happened in time, so my new 12.2 instance was gone. While I was at the airport I signed up for a new 30 day trial using a corporate email address. It was instantly approved and I created a new DBaaS instance. I’ve got 30 days to learn everything about Oracle 12.2. 🙂

The flight to Frankfurt was short (75 mins), quiet and uneventful, but there was always a nagging doubt in my mind. My stopover in Franfurt was only 65 minutes. Depending on gate locations, getting between gates at Frankfurt can take longer than that. Luckily I was at the front of the plane, so I was able to get off quickly and rush to my next flight.

The flight from Frankfurt to Sofia was only a couple of hours. Once again, pretty uneventful in itself.


When I got to Sofia I was met by Julian Dontcheff and a gang of presenters and we were whisked off the Pravets in a minibus. It was about an hours drive, so you can imagine what it’s like with a bunch of presenters in a minibus. 🙂

Once I was in the hotel, I went through the usual routine, film the hotel and my room and put everything on charge ready for the next day. 🙂 The hotel is very grand!

I’m on a bit of a fitness kick since my APAC Tour, so I headed off to the gym, but was delayed for some time chatting to the guys, but I did get there in the end.

In the evening we went to the hotel restaurant for food. At about 10:30 I excused myself and crashed for the night.

This morning is the BGOUG Autumn event. Hope to see you there…