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Tim Hall

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Oracle related rants (and lots of off-topic stuff)...
Updated: 30 weeks 23 hours ago

MySQL : What management tools do you use?

Fri, 2014-10-31 02:35

A quick question out to the world. What management tools do you use for MySQL?

We currently have:

  • MySQL Workbench : It’s OK, but I don’t really like it. It feels like half a product compared to tools I’ve used for other database engines…
  • phpMyAdmin : I’ve used this on and off for over a decade for my own website. While I’m typing this sentence, they’ve probably released 4 new versions. :) We have an installation of this which we use to access our MySQL databases should the need arise.
  • mysql Command Line : I use the command line and a variety of scripts for the vast majority of the things I do.

When I’m working with Oracle, my first port of call for any situation is to use SQL*Plus along with a variety of scripts I’ve created over the years. The performance stuff in Cloud Control (if you’ve paid for the Diagnostics and Tuning option) is the big exception to that of course.

I still consider myself a newbie MySQL administrator, but I’ve found myself spending more and more time at the command line, to the point where I rarely launch MySQL Workbench or phpMyAdmin these days. I’m wondering if that is common to other MySQL administrators, or if it is a carry over from my Oracle background…

Enquiring minds need to know!



MySQL : What management tools do you use? was first posted on October 31, 2014 at 9:35 am.
©2012 "The ORACLE-BASE Blog". Use of this feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this article in your feed reader, then the site is guilty of copyright infringement.

A World View

Wed, 2014-10-29 13:53

I’ve mentioned this before, but I thought I would show something visual…

The majority of my readers come from the USA and India. Since they are in different time zones, it spreads the load throughout the day. When I wake up, India are dominant.


In the afternoon the USA come online, by which time Russia have given up, but there is still a hardcore of Indian’s going for it! :)


I haven’t posted an evening shot as it’s the same as the afternoon one. Don’t you folks in India ever sleep?

I’m sure this is exactly the same with all other technology-related websites, but it does make me pause for thought occasionally. Most aspects of our lives are so localised, like traffic on the journey to work or family issues. It’s interesting to stop and look occasionally at the sort of reach this internet thing has given us. It may be a little rash, but I predict this interwebs thing might just catch on!



A World View was first posted on October 29, 2014 at 8:53 pm.
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OTN APAC Tour 2014 : It’s Nearly Here!

Wed, 2014-10-29 03:38

airplane-flying-through-clouds-smallIn a little less than a week I start the OTN APAC Tour. This is where I’m going to be…

  • Perth, Australia : November 6-7
  • Shanghai, China : November 9
  • Tokyo, Japan : November 11-13
  • Beijing, China : November 14-15
  • Bangkok, Thailand : November 17
  • Auckland, New Zealand : November 19-21

Just looking at that list is scary. When I look at the flight schedule I feel positively nauseous. I think I’m in Bangkok for about 24 hours. It’s sleep, conference, fly. :)

After all these years you would think I would be used to it, but every time I plan a tour I go through the same sequence of events.

  • Someone asks me if I want to do the tour.
  • I say yes and agree to do all the dates.
  • They ask me if I am sure, because doing the whole tour is a bit stupid as it’s a killer and takes up a lot of time.
  • I say, no problem. It will be fine. I don’t like cherry-picking events as it makes me feel guilty, like I’m doing it for a holiday or something.
  • Everything is provisionally agreed.
  • I realise the magnitude of what I’ve agreed to and secretly hope I don’t get approval.
  • Approval comes through.
  • Mad panic for visas, flights and hotel bookings etc.
  • The tour starts and it’s madness for X number of days. On several occasions I will want to throw in the towel and get on a plane home, but someone else on the tour will provide sufficient counselling to keep me just on the right side of sane.
  • Tour finishes and although I’ve enjoyed it, I promise myself I will never do it again.

With less than a week to go, I booked the last of my hotels this morning, so you can tell what stage I’m at now… :)

I was reflecting on this last night and I think I know the reason I agree to these silly schedules. When I was a kid, only the “posh” kids did foreign holidays. You would come back from the summer break and people would talk about eating pasta on holiday and it seemed rather exotic. Somewhere in the back of my head I am still that kid and I don’t really believe any of these trips will ever happen, so I agree to anything. :)





OTN APAC Tour 2014 : It’s Nearly Here! was first posted on October 29, 2014 at 10:38 am.
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phpBB 3.1 Ascraeus Released

Tue, 2014-10-28 13:41

Just a quick heads-up for those that use it, phpBB 3.1 Ascraeus as been released. It’s a feature release, so the upgrade is a bit messy. I did the “automatic” upgrade. There was so much manual work involved, I would recommend you take the approach of deleting the old files, replacing with the new ones, then running the database upgrade from there. I’ve not tried that approach, but the docs say it is OK to do it that way…

I figured I might as well upgrade, even though the forum is locked. :)



phpBB 3.1 Ascraeus Released was first posted on October 28, 2014 at 8:41 pm.
©2012 "The ORACLE-BASE Blog". Use of this feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this article in your feed reader, then the site is guilty of copyright infringement.

Website Outage Warning : 26 Oct 2014 20:00-00:00 GMT

Sun, 2014-10-26 02:38

DiagnosticsJust a quick note to say the website will be out of action this evening for 3-4 hours.

There have been a couple of random failures recently. With nothing in the logs to work with, I figured I’d try testing the hardware. Yesterday I tested the disks and they came back OK. Tonight it’s the turn of the memory. The plan is for the site to go down about 20:00 UK Time (GMT) and be up by midnight.

Sorry if this annoys anyone, but I’ve been looking through the site statistics trying to find the best time to do this and Sunday night seems to be the quietest time.

I’ll let you know how it goes. :)



PS. You can read the stuff from Google’s cache in the short term. Search for the item on Google. When you get it, click the down-arrow next to the URL and select “Cached”. No need to miss anything… :)


Update: It didn’t happen as the data centre people got back to me too late to start it (this morning). I’ll pencil this in for next week…

Website Outage Warning : 26 Oct 2014 20:00-00:00 GMT was first posted on October 26, 2014 at 9:38 am.
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Oracle ACE Program: Follow Up

Fri, 2014-10-24 06:13

I just wanted to write something as a follow up to my recent and provocatively titled Oracle ACE = Oracle’s Bitch? post. Obviously, that subject has been preying on my mind a little… I said before, it is hard to be objective about yourself, so maybe some aspects of the “being an Oracle ACE changes you” debate may be true. It would be wrong of me to deny that outright, but I think there are some indirect consequences of being an ACE that might alter my opinions about things, so I thought I would share my thoughts…

Access to Information

I don’t want this to sound patronising, but there are a lot of people out there spouting rubbish about things that happen in the tech industry with no knowledge of the history or actual decision processes that lead up to the final result. If you don’t know what is actually going on, it is easy to come to the wrong conclusion. Let’s use Oracle Linux as an example.

When Oracle Linux was announced it seemed like the whole internet was full of people saying, “Poor Red Hat. Oracle is trying to kill them!”. If you had spoken to people in the Oracle Linux team you would know that Oracle was incredibly frustrated with how long it was taking Red Hat to get performance improvements through to the kernel because of the way they manage their long term support of versions. Apart from critical updates, many major performance features will not be added into the kernel until the next major release. This was exactly what was happening with RHEL5. There were a whole host of performance improvements in the mainline Linux kernel, that had not been added to the RHEL5 kernel, but would be in the RHEL6 kernel. The problem was RHEL6 was *massively* delayed. That delay meant the performance of Oracle on Linux was essentially being crippled by Red Hat’s release cycles. Add to that other features like InfiniBand support that were being held back and you start to see the problem.

One option was for Oracle to make a binary clone of RHEL (like CentOS, Scientific Linux etc.) and give the option of their own kernel (UEK) that was closer to the mainline Linux kernel and therefore included all the latest performance stuff, without having to wait for Red Hat to get their ass in gear. That is what Oracle did with Oracle Linux. We had the performance of RHEL6, but we were still effectively using RHEL5. What’s more, by breaking this dependency between the distro version and the kernel version, the incentive to upgrade from RHEL5 to RHEL6 to RHEL7 was broken. For the most part, Oracle servers use a minimal amount of the features in the full distro. Who cares what version of Firefox is on the database server? For some people, running OL5 + UEK is pretty much like running OL7, so why bother upgrading as long as you still have erata produced?

Most people out there had not spoken to the Oracle Linux team, so they were quite happily spouting the “Oracle are killing Red Hat” crap, without knowing the real motivation. When someone like me comes along and sings the praises of Oracle Linux and actively defends Oracle’s position, I sound like a kiss ass, but really I’m just standing up for what I believe to be right.

Caveats: The arguments I was told could have been fiction used to influence me, but I was there through much of the process and have a lot of respect for the people involved, so a choose to believe them!

Why that long explanation? If I had not been in the ACE program, I personally would never have had that contact with the people in the Oracle Linux team and I would have been one of those people saying Oracle were a bunch of bastards! Because of my involvement in the ACE program, I got to see “behind the curtain” and chose a different path. So yes, being an Oracle ACE did change me!

I’ve used Oracle Linux as an example, but I could have used a whole bunch more!

Access to Support

We have all lived through Oracle Support nightmares. I’ve written several things in the past ranting about support. Since being part of the ACE program I’ve got to know a number of product managers (and in some cases developers) at Oracle, so when I have problems I can contact them directly and ask questions. In many cases, that significantly reduces the amount I actually have to interact with Oracle Support. If I know I will be working with product X, I actively seek out people in that field (ACEs and Oracle employees) and use that networking to my advantage. A case in point is the 12c JSON support. At Oracle OpenWorld I made a point of going to the demo grounds and speaking to Mark Drake about it. When I met up with David Peake I asked him some questions about what I was planning to do with APEX in 12c to get a second opinion. As long as you don’t bug these folks with stupid questions, they are usually willing to help.

If I had not been part of the ACE program, I would probably never have met these people and this sort of thing would not be possible for me *. That must have changed me, but I don’t think of it as incidious. I guess in this case I could say being an Oak Table member has changed me because of my access to people and information also…

Maybe you see change where there has been no change?

You hear those stories about people winning the lottery then losing all their friends, because their friends don’t want to be seen as “hangers on” so they avoid them. In some cases it is possible that the people who become ACEs haven’t changed, but your perception of them has. Before I became an ACE, if I said something supportive of Oracle you probably wouldn’t notice. If I say the same thing now I am a sell-out. :) I can think of a couple of cases.

Grid Control/Cloud Control : I’ve used OEM in its various forms since 9i, where it was the Java-based console on top of the Management Server. Back then you couldn’t admit to using it in public or you would be ridiculed. You had to quickly close it down and open SQL*Plus if someone came in the room. Over the course of 10g and 11g Grid Control, then Cloud Control, became cool and everyone talks about it now. When I am presenting and I say things like, “I believe every DBA should use Cloud Control”, I mean it because I think it is true. The problem is I sound like a suck-up now. I’m just telling people what Oracle want me to say! Back in the 9i days when I was afraid to admit I used the 9i OEM Management Server I had credibility. :)

Certification : I’ve been doing certifications since Oracle 7. I started doing them to confirm to myself I really did know something about being a DBA. :) Now it is all about my personal development. From time to time I have contact with Oracle Education about my views on certification. For a few years they interviewed me at OOW and so far have used about 5 seconds on the footage. Why? Because my views don’t line up with theirs. Just before OOW14 I was asked if I would write a post for the Oracle Certification Blog. I was willing to do one with a focus on personal development, but said I could not fall in line with the Oracle Education message. I don’t think that post will happen now, which is a pity. I think the people involved are a great group of people and I’ve met many of them for years at OOW, but we do have a difference of opinion where the value of certification is concerned. So now when I say I like certification (for my reasons) and I agree with Oracle’s new re-certification policy I am a drone that constantly spouts the Oracle message!


If you are looking for conspiracy you will find it, but it doesn’t mean it’s real!

I’m sorry this post has been so long, but I do care about what I do and I care about the ACE program. It’s been a big part of my life for the last 8 years. As you can tell, I’m a little butt-hurt about this subject, but I know that trying to defend yourself makes you look all the more guilty… :)

Sod it. It’s nearly the weekend, which means I get more time to play with Oracle…



* For clarification, I wasn’t suggesting I can only speak to these people because I’m an ACE. I meant that I (me personally) only came into contact with them in the first place because I’m an ACE.

Oracle ACE Program: Follow Up was first posted on October 24, 2014 at 1:13 pm.
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Pattern Matching (MATCH_RECOGNIZE) in Oracle Database 12c

Thu, 2014-10-23 11:45

I’ve spent the last couple of evenings playing with the new SQL pattern matching feature in Oracle 12c.

I’m doing some sessions on analytic functions in some upcoming conferences and I thought I should look at this stuff. I’m not really going to include much, if anything, about it as my sessions are focussed on beginners and I don’t really want to scare people off. The idea is to ease people in gently, then let them scare themselves once they are hooked on analytics. :) I’m thinking about Hooked on Monkey Fonics now…

At first glance the pattern matching seems pretty scary. There are a lot of options and as soon as you throw regular expressions into the mix it does make your head swim a little. After a couple of half-baked attempts, where I found convenient excuses to give in when the going got tough, I finally sat down and plugged through the docs. If you actually RTFM it is a lot easier than hoping to wing it. Who’da thunk it? :)

I’ve tried to keep the article really light. The docs are pretty good for this stuff (if you read them) and they have a lot of examples. I started adding more and more detail to the article, then chopped most of it out. There is no point regurgitating all the options when it is in the docs. Most of the examples I’ve seen before just talk about basic patterns, like V and W shapes, but it’s quite simple to do complicated stuff once you start playing. In fact it takes more time to set up the example data than it does to figure out the queries to bring it back.

In the near future I will be copy/pasting examples and adjusting them or just sitting with my article and the docs when trying to use this stuff. I think it’s going to take a long time before I can type this stuff from memory. Partly that’s because I can’t see myself having lots of cause to use it. I can’t think of any scenarios I’ve experienced where this would have been a natural fit. Having said that, I’ve never worked in things like stock markets, betting and stuff like that where I can imagine this sort of pattern matching is needed all the time. I seem to remember one person at a conference, who shall remain nameless, saying this feature was one of their drivers for upgrading to 12c. I wonder if that was for real or an exaggeration?

Anyway, if you need this sort of analysis, I think it’s worth checking out, but try to remember it’s not as scary as it first looks. :)



Pattern Matching (MATCH_RECOGNIZE) in Oracle Database 12c was first posted on October 23, 2014 at 6:45 pm.
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Oracle ACE = Oracle’s Bitch?

Wed, 2014-10-22 16:02

I got a comment today on my recent Oracle fanboy post, which I thought was very interesting and worthy of a blog post in reply. The commenter started by criticising the Oracle license and support costs (we’ve all had that complaint) as well as the quality of support (yes, I’ve been there too), but that wasn’t the thing that stood out. The final paragraph was as follows…

“One addition. I know you, your past work and you are very brainy person but since last couple of years you became Oracle doctrine submissive person just like most of the rest of ACE Directors. When you were just ACEs, you were more trustworthy than now and you weren’t just Oracle interpreters… And unfortunately I’m not the only person with this opinion, but probably I’m only one who is not affraid to make it public.”

I think that’s a really interesting point and one that I feel compelled to write about…

Let me start by saying I don’t believe this comment was in any way directed at the main body of my website. The articles there have always been “how-to” style articles and typically don’t contain much in the way of opinions about the functionality. I’ve always tried to keep facts in the articles and opinions and random junk on the blog. With that distinction in place, let’s talk about my blog…

When I first joined the Oracle ACE Program in 2006 I was very concious of what *I thought it meant* about what I could and couldn’t say. On the one hand I didn’t want to piss off Oracle as I was very proud of my little ACE badge, but I also didn’t want to be considered Oracle’s Bitch. I quickly learned a couple of things:

  • You are selected for what you are currently doing in the community. If you just keep doing what you do, life will be good. If you spend your whole time slagging off Oracle, you probably won’t get invited on to the program in the first place. If over time you turn into a complete hater, you will probably be asked to leave the program. I guess that’s pretty obvious and true of any evangelism program out there. Does that mean you can’t ever criticise Oracle? Hell no! Instead, I think it makes it your obligation to give constructive criticism whenever possible. One of the things we are encouraged to do is to make stronger links with the product managers so we can give more feedback to help improve the products. If you witnessed the amount of moaning and complaints that get fired at some of the Oracle teams during the ACE Director briefings, you would have no doubts about this. :)
  • The value of the Oracle ACE Program to Oracle is that it is made up of “real” people who think Oracle is cool enough to spend their own time talking about it. If the Oracle ACE Program becomes a collection of yes-men and yes-women, then they might as well send a bunch of sales people to every conference. Oracle have (so far), never complained or tried to veto anything I’ve said in any presentation, blog post or article.

So have I become one of Oracle’s bitches over the last few years? Well, I’ve been an ACE since 1st April 2006 (yes, April fool’s day) and I’ve been an ACE Director since some time in 2007 or 2008. I can’t really remember to be honest, but let’s say for the sake of argument it’s been 6 years as an ACED. If it was becoming an ACED that made me an “Oracle doctrine submissive person” in the last couple of years, it must have taken Oracle four years of work to make me that way. :)

I don’t believe I alter my beliefs to fit any criteria, but I guess it is really difficult to be subjective about yourself and I would be very interested to know what other people think about this. If I think about some common topics of discussion over the last few years where I don’t fall “on message”, they would probably be:

  • I believe Oracle is too expensive.
  • I believe the diagnostics and tuning pack should be part of the base product and available in all editions for free.
  • I believe anything to do with security should be part of the base product and available in all editions for free.
  • I don’t agree with the pricing of data guard standby nodes that are only used for managed recovery. If they are opened for use (read-only, active DG or snapshot standby) I can see why Oracle would want to charge.
  • Although I love the functionality of Cloud Control, I think the implementation is suffering from really bad bloat. It also exhibits some irregularities when different teams work on different aspects of the same functionality, as I discussed here.
  • I am a fan of certification from the perspective of personal development, but I don’t think the piece of paper is worth anything in itself. I’ve written about this here. Having said that, I do agree with the recent re-certification thing.

I’ve just had a look through my posts over the last year and if anything, I would say I’m promoting KeePass and MobaXterm more than Oracle. :) I know I get a little gushy about the ACE Program during conference write ups, and maybe that annoys people a bit, but I just can’t see that I’ve become a total drone… (Denial is not just a river in Africa?)

Anyway, I have two things to say in closing:

  • To people in the Oracle ACE program : If you are worried about what you should and shouldn’t say, my advice is try to be as honest as possible. If the people in the community lose faith in the members of the program, then it is worth nothing!
  • To people in the community : If you honestly believe you see a change in behaviour when someone joins the program you should call them out on it. I would suggest you do this in private and give some examples of situations that give you concern. If they are “the type of people the program needs”, they should be concerned about this also!



PS. For those that feel the need to, please don’t wade in with comments in my defence as I don’t think this is either necessary or helpful. I think the person in question had a genuine concern and quite frankly that makes it a concern of mine also…

Oracle ACE = Oracle’s Bitch? was first posted on October 22, 2014 at 11:02 pm.
©2012 "The ORACLE-BASE Blog". Use of this feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this article in your feed reader, then the site is guilty of copyright infringement.

The Ad Hoc Reporting Myth

Mon, 2014-10-20 01:42

Empowering users! Giving users access to the information they need, when they need it! Allowing users to decide what they need! These are all great ideas and there are plenty of products out there that can be used to achieve this. The question must be, is it really necessary?

There will always be some users that need this functionality. They will need up-to-the-second ad hoc reporting and will invest their time into getting the most from the tools they are given. There is also a large portion of the user base that will quite happily use what they are given and will *never* invest in the tool set. They don’t see it as part of their job and basically just don’t care.

Back when I started IT, most projects had some concept of a reporting function. A group of people that would discuss with the user base the type of reporting that was needed and identify what was *really needed* and what were just the never ending wish list of things that would never really be used. They would build these reports and they would go through user acceptance and be signed off. It sounds like the bad old days, but what you were left with were a bunch of well defined reports, written by people who were “relatively speaking” skilled at reporting. What’s more, the reporting function could influence the application design. The quickest way to notice that “One True Lookup Table” is a bad design is to try and do some reporting queries. You will soon change your approach.

With the advent of ad hoc reporting, the skills base gradually eroded. We don’t need a reporting function any more! The users are in charge! All we need is this semantic layer and the users can do it all for themselves! Then the people building the semantic layers got lazy and just generated what amounts to a direct copy of the schema. Look at any database that sits behind one of these abominations and I can pretty much guarantee the most horrendous SQL in the system is generated by ad hoc reporting tools! You can blame the users for not investing more time in becoming an expert in the tool. You can blame the people who built the semantic layer for doing a poor job. You can blame the tools. What it really comes down to is the people who used ad hoc reporting as a “quick and easy” substitute for doing the right thing.

There will always be a concept of “standard reports” in any project. Stuff that is known from day one that the business relies on. These should be developed by experts who do it using efficient SQL. If they are not time-critical, they can be scheduled to spread out the load on the system, yet still be present when they are needed. This would relieve some of the sh*t-storm of badly formed queries hitting the database from ad hoc reporting.

I’m going to file this under #ThoseWereTheDays, #GrumpyOldMen and #ItProbablyWasntAsGoodAsIRemember…



The Ad Hoc Reporting Myth was first posted on October 20, 2014 at 8:42 am.
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ReadyNAS 104

Sat, 2014-10-18 07:36

My old NAS went pop a little while ago and I’ve spent the last few weeks backing up to alternate servers while trying to decide what to get to replace it.

Reading the reviews on Amazon is a bit of a nightmare because there are always scare stories, regardless how much you pay. In the end I decided to go for the “cheap and cheerful” option and bought a ReadyNAS 104. I got the diskless one and bought a couple of 3TB WD Red disks, which were pretty cheap. It supports the 4TB disks, but they are half the price again and I’m mean. Having just two disks means I’ve got a single 3TB RAID 1 volume. I can add a third and fourth disk, which will give me approximately 6 or 9 TB. It switches to RAID 5 by default with more than 2 disks.

The setup was all web based, so I didn’t have any OS compatibility issues. Installation was really simple. Slipped in the disks. Plugged the ethernet cable to my router and turned on the power. I went to the website (, discovered my device and ran through the setup wizard. Job done. I left it building my RAID 1 volume overnight, but I was able to store files almost immediately, while the volume was building.

The web interface for the device is really simple to use. I can define SMB/AFP/NFS shares in a couple of clicks. Security is really obvious. I can define iSCSI LUNs for use with my Linux machines and it has TimeMachine integration if you want that.

The cloud-related functionality is optional, so if you are worried about opening up a potential security hole, you can easily avoid it. I chose not to configure it during the setup wizard.

I was originally going to spend a lot more on a NAS, but I thought I would chance this unit. So far I’m glad I did. It’s small, solid and silent. Fingers crossed it won’t go pair-shaped. :)

I’ve got all the vital stuff on it now. I’ll start backing up some of my more useful VMs to it and see if I need to buy some more disks. I’ve got about 10TB of storage on servers, but most of it is taken up with old VMs I don’t care about, so I will probably be a bit selective.



PS. I think NetGear might be doing a revamp of their NAS lineup soon, so you might get one of these extra cheap in the near future. They’re already claim to be about 50% RRP, but most RRPs are lies. :)


ReadyNAS 104 was first posted on October 18, 2014 at 2:36 pm.
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Yosemite : It’s like OS X, but more boring to look at!

Fri, 2014-10-17 11:19

I went on my MacBook last night and saw I had updates available on the App Store. I figured this was one of those Twitter updates that seem to happen every time you blink. Much to my surprise it was a new version of OS X. You can tell how little of an Apple fanboy I am. I didn’t even know this was due, let alone here already. :)

I figured, what the heck and let it start. About 20 minutes later it was done and now I have Yosemite on my MacBook Pro (mid 2009). I wasn’t really timing, so that’s a guess.

First impressions.

  • It’s like OS X, but more boring to look at! Everything is flat and looks a little bland. I’m told this is the look and feel from the iPhone, but I don’t have one of those so I don’t know. I’m sure in a week I won’t remember the old look. The only reminder is the icons for all the non-Apple software I have installed, which still look like they are trying to fit in with the old look. :)
  • I asked one of my colleagues at work and he said it is meant to be faster. I don’t see that myself, but this is a 5 year old bit of kit.
  • Launchpad is straight out of GNOME3. I never use it anyway. Perhaps it always looked like this???
  • Mission Control and Dashboard are also things I never use, so I can’t tell if they have changed for the better or not. :)
  • The light colour background of the Application menu looks odd. Not bad, but different.

What’s broken? So far nothing. I can run VirtualBox, iTerm, Chrome and PowerPoint, so that is pretty much all I do with the laptop.

So in conclusion, Yosemite has completely changed my whole world and Apple are a bunch of geniuses right? Well, actually it’s a pretty mundane change as far as my usage is concerned. I’m sure it’s all terribly cloudy and someone will throw a “rewritten from the ground up” in there somewhere, kinda like Microsoft do when they release the same stuff year after year with a different skin…

By the way, it didn’t cost me anything to upgrade from pretty to bland!





Yosemite : It’s like OS X, but more boring to look at! was first posted on October 17, 2014 at 6:19 pm.
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Roll up! Roll up! Nothing new to see here! (Database Web Services)

Thu, 2014-10-16 14:22

Over the years I’ve written loads of stuff about consuming and publishing web services directly from the database. I’ve been doing quite a bit of this at work recently and I realised how difficult it is to find all the pieces, since they are spread across multiple articles, spanning multiple database versions. In an attempt to give a single point of entry I’ve written this very brief article.

It’s really more of a links page. :)

If you are new to the idea of using the database for web services, it might come as a surprise what you can do without having to turn to the dark side (middleware). :)



Update: This is new on my website though. :)

Roll up! Roll up! Nothing new to see here! (Database Web Services) was first posted on October 16, 2014 at 9:22 pm.
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Oracle fanboy and blind to the truth?

Wed, 2014-10-15 02:46

I had a little exchange with someone on Twitter last night, which was initiated by him complaining about the cost of Oracle and predicting their demise. Once that was over I spent a little time thinking about my “fanboy status”.

If you know anything about me, you will know I’m an Oracle fanboy. I’ve spent nearly 20 years doing this stuff and the last 14+ years writing about it on the internet. If I wasn’t into it, it would be a pretty sorry state of affairs. So does that mean I’m totally blinded like all those Apple fanboys and fangirls? No. I just don’t choose to dwell on a lot of the negative and instead focus on the positive, like the cool bits of tech. The common topics I hear are:

  • Oracle costs too much : I could bleat on about the cost of Oracle and what features are missing from specific editions, but quite frankly that is boring. Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last 35+ years you should know the score. If it’s got the name Oracle associated with it, it’s probably going to be really expensive. That’s why people’s jaws drop when they find out Oracle Linux is free. They are just not used to hearing the words Oracle and free in the same sentence. If you want free or cheap, you can find it. What people often don’t consider is total cost of ownership. Nothing is ever free. The money just gets directed in different ways.
  • The cheap/free RDBMS products will kill Oracle : This talk has been going on since I started working with Oracle 20 years ago. It used to worry me. It doesn’t any more. So far it hasn’t materialized. Sure, different products have eaten into the market share somewhat and I’m sure that will continue to happen, but having a headstart over the competition can sometimes be a significant advantage. I work with other RDBMS products as well and it is sometimes infuriating how much is missing. I’m not talking about those headline Oracle features that 3 people in the world use. I’m talking about really simple stuff that is missing that makes being a DBA a total pain in the ass. Typically, these gaps have to be filled in by separate products or tools, which just complicates your environment.
  • It’s just a bit bucket : If your company is just using the database as a bit bucket and you do all the “cool” stuff in the middle tier, then Oracle databases are probably not the way to go for you. Your intellectual and financial focus will be on the middle tier. Good luck!
  • But company X use product Y, not Oracle : I’m so bored of this type of argument. Facebook use MySQL and PHP. Yes, but they wrote their own source code transformer (HipHop) to turn PHP into C++ and they use so much stuff in front of MySQL (like Memcached) that they could probably do what they do on top of flat files. Companies talk about their cool stuff and what makes them different. They are not so quick to talk about what is sitting behind the ERP that is running their business…
  • NoSQL/Hadoop/Document Stores will kill RDBMS : Have you ever had a real job in industry? Have you ever done anything other than try to write a twitter rip-off in Ruby for your school project? Do you know how long it took COBOL to die? (it still isn’t dead by the way). There is a massive investment in the I.T. industry around relational databases. I’m not saying they are the perfect solution, but they aren’t going anywhere in the near future. Good luck running your ERP on any of these non-RDBMS data stores! What has changed is that people now realise RDBMS is not the right solution for every type of data store. Using the right product for the right job is a good thing. There are still plenty of jobs where an RDBMS is the right tool.
  • The cloud will kill Oracle : The cloud could prove to be the biggest spanner in the works for many IT companies. If we start using cloud-based services for everything in the Software as a Service (SaaS) model, who cares what technology sits behind it? Provided our applications work and they meet our SLAs, who cares how many bodies are running around like headless chickens in the background to keep the thing running? For Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), I don’t think cloud makes so much of a difference. In these cases, you are still picking the type of database or the type of OS you need. They are not hidden from you like in the SaaS model. I guess the impact of cloud will depend on your definition of cloud and route the market eventually takes. What people also seem to forget is the big winners in the cloud game will be the big companies. When the world is only using SaaS, you are going to have to work for Amazon, Oracle, Microsoft etc. if you want to be a techie. The ultimate goal of cloud is consolidation and centralisation, so you will have to work for one of these big players if you want to be anything other than a user. I find it interesting that people are betting on the cloud as a way of punishing the big companies, when actually it is likely to help them and put us folks out of business…

The post has got a bit long an tedious, so I’m going to sign off now.

In conclusion, yes I’m a fanboy, but I’m not oblivious to what’s going on outside Oracle. I like playing with the tech and I try to look on the positive side where my job-related technology is concerned. If I focussed on the negative I would have to assume that Oracle is doomed and we will all die of Ebola by the end of the week…




Oracle fanboy and blind to the truth? was first posted on October 15, 2014 at 9:46 am.
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VirtualBox 4.3.18

Sun, 2014-10-12 07:00

VirtualBox 4.3.18 has been released. The downloads and changelog are in the usual places.

It’s a maintenance release, so mostly bug fixes and the odd little addition.

Happy upgrading… :)



VirtualBox 4.3.18 was first posted on October 12, 2014 at 2:00 pm.
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Site Maintenance Complete!

Sat, 2014-07-19 04:40

It looks like the site maintenance is complete and from my perspective the DNS changes have gone through.

If you go to the homepage and see a message called “Site Maintenance” in the “Site News” section, it means you are being directed to the new server. If you don’t see that it means you are still being directed to the old server and you won’t be able to read this. :)

I guess it will take a few hours for the DNS changes to propagate. Last time I moved the site it took a couple of days to complete for everyone.



Site Maintenance Complete! was first posted on July 19, 2014 at 11:40 am.
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Planned Maintenance This Weekend!

Fri, 2014-07-18 02:14

Just a quick heads-up to you folks…

On Saturday I’ll be transferring my website and blog to a new server. It’s with the same hosting company, so hopefully the DNS changes will not be too drastic.

The site is already in place on the new box and it seems to be working fine, so on Saturday morning I will do a backup of the MySQL databases and transfer them to the new machine, then initiate the DNS change.

The last time I did this, which was between different hosting companies, there were some issues in some geographical regions for a couple of days, but most people were seeing the site as normal within about an hour.

Note. If you happen to post on the forum or comment on a blog post during Saturday, it might be lost depending on the timing. Also, my email address my go wonky for a little while…

Fingers crossed… :)




Planned Maintenance This Weekend! was first posted on July 18, 2014 at 9:14 am.
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VirtualBox 4.3.14

Wed, 2014-07-16 07:23

Oracle have given birth to VirtualBox 4.3.14. Mother and baby are doing well, with the downloads and changelog in the usual places.

Happy upgrading…



PS. Looks like the baby might be still-born. Fails pretty badly on Windows 7 at the moment…

PPS. Seems to work fine on Mac and Linux (Fedora 20)…

VirtualBox 4.3.14 was first posted on July 16, 2014 at 2:23 pm.
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Oracle Midlands : Event #4 – Summary

Tue, 2014-07-15 03:51

What a cracking Oracle Midlands event!

The evening started with a session on “Designing Efficient SQL” by Jonathan Lewis. The first few slides prompted this tweet.


When someone asks me a question about SQL tuning my heart sinks. It’s part of my job and I can do it, but I find it really hard to communicate what I’m doing. Jonathan’s explanation during this session was probably the best one I’ve ever heard. Rather than trying to explain a million and one optimizer features, it’s very much focussed on a “What are you actually trying to achieve?” approach. It should be mandatory viewing for all Oracle folks.

After the break, where I stuffed myself with samosas, it was on to the lightning talks (10 mins each).

  • Breaking Exadata - Jonathan Lewis, JL Computer Consultancy : This focused on a couple of situations where the horsepower of Exadata doesn’t come to the rescue, like large hash joins that flood to disk and decompressions in the storage cells being abandoned and the compressed blocks being sent back to the compute nodes to be decompressed. If I ever get to use an Exadata…
  • How to rename a 500gb schema in 10 minutes - Richard Harrison, EON : Why can’t we have a rename user/schema command? Richard showed a quick way to use transportable tablespaces to rename a schema. Neat!
  • Oracle Big Data Appliance – What’s in the box? - Salih Oztop, Business AnalytiX : The title says it all really. I thought it was a really good introduction to the BDA. I’ve been to 1 hour talks on this subject that didn’t convey as much information as he managed to fit into 10 minutes. Also, a hint at a cool new feature about to be announced…
  • Installing RAC: Things to sort out with your systems and network admins - Patrick Hurley, Scale Abilities : Patrick is a cool guy and he upped his cool rating further by brandishing a light sabre as a pointer during his talk! His session was a list of gotchas he’s encountered while installing RAC. Some of them I’ve encountered myself. Some not. Good stuff.
  • Is the optimiser too smart now? - Martin Widlake, ORA600 : I could hear a voice, but I couldn’t see anyone over the podium. :) The question was, has it got to a point where it is too complicated for normal folks and beginners to stand a chance at understanding it, or should we now be treating it like a black box? My own feeling is that 12c might be the turning point where I really have to say I don’t understand it any more. It feels a bit sad, but maybe it is inevitable…

I though the lightning talks worked really well. It felt like a whole conference packed into one hour. :)

The event was free, thanks to the sponsorship by those kind people at Red Gate. The Oracle Press teddy bears made another appearance, but I didn’t win one. :(

Big thanks to Mike for organising it and to all the speakers for doing a great job. The next event will be up on the website soon. Please show your support! These things live or die based on your participation…



Oracle Midlands : Event #4 – Summary was first posted on July 15, 2014 at 10:51 am.
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Swimming Progress

Sat, 2014-07-12 02:59

While I was at BGOUG I went for swim each morning before the conference. That got me to thinking, perhaps I should start swimming again…

It’s been 4 weeks since I got back from the conference and I’ve been swimming very morning. It was a bit of a struggle at first. I think it took me 2-3 days to work up to a mile (1600M – about 9M short of a real mile). Since then I’ve been doing a mile each day and it’s going pretty well.

I’m pretty much an upper body swimmer it the moment. I kick my legs just enough to keep them from sinking, but don’t really generate any forward thrust with them. At this point I’m concentrating on my upper body form. When I think about it, my form is pretty good. When I get distracted, like when I am having to pass people, it breaks down a little. I guess you could say I am in state of “concious competence“. Over the next few weeks this should set in a bit and I can start working on some other stuff. It’s pointless to care too  much about speed at this point because if my form breaks down I end up having a faster arm turnover, but use more effort and actually swim slower. The mantra is form, form, form!

Breathing is surprisingly good. I spent years as a left side breather (every 4th stroke). During my last bout of swimming (2003-2008) I forced myself to switch to bilateral breathing, but still felt the left side was more natural. Having had a 6 year break, I’ve come back and both sides feel about the same. If anything, I would say my right side technique is slightly better than my left. Occasionally I will throw in a length of left-only or right-only (every 4th stroke) breathing for the hell of it, but at the moment every 3rd stroke is about the best option for me. As I get fitter I will start playing with things like every 5th stroke and lengths of no breathing just to add a bit of variety.

Turns are generally going pretty well. Most of the time I’m fine. About 1 in 20 I judge the distance wrong and end up having a really flimsy push off. I’m sure my judgement will improve over time.

At this point I’m taking about 33 minutes to complete a mile. The world record for 1500M short course (25M pool) is 14:10. My first goal is to get my 1600M time down to double the 1500M world record. Taking 5 minutes off my time seems like quite a big challenge, but I’m sure as I bring my legs into play and my technique improves my speed will increase significantly.

As I get more into the swing of things I will probably incorporate a bit of interval training, like a sprint length, followed by 2-3 at a more sedate pace. That should improve my fitness quite a lot and hopefully improve my speed.

For a bit of fun I’ve added a couple of lengths of butterfly after I finish my main swim. I used to be quite good at butterfly, but at the moment I’m guessing the life guards think I’m having a fit. It would be nice to be able to bang out a few lengths of that and not feel like I was dying. :)

I don’t do breaststroke any more, as it’s not good for my hips. Doing backstroke in a pool with other people in the lane sucks, so I can’t be bothered with that. Maybe on days when the pool is quieter I will work on it a bit, but for now the main focus is crawl.



PS. I reserve the right to get bored, give up and eat cake instead at any time… :)

Swimming Progress was first posted on July 12, 2014 at 9:59 am.
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