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Tim Hall

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Oracle related rants (and lots of off-topic stuff)...
Updated: 4 hours 38 min ago

OUG Ireland 2014

Wed, 2014-03-12 16:10

As you probably know by now I was at OUG Ireland yesterday.

It was a pretty early start for me. I needed to be up by 03:30 to get a taxi to the airport, but fear of missing my flight meant I was awake from about 01:00 onward. My taxi driver wanted to talk about some rather strange stuff during the ride. A conflicted individual I guess…

The Ryanair flight across to Dublin went smoothly enough. There were 18 people on a 737, so I’m guessing that flight didn’t cover the staff costs, since I paid £30 for a return flight. Once at Dublin I took the AirLink bus for 10 euros, which dropped me outside The Convention Centre Dublin.

I headed straight for the RAC Attack table at the Oracle stand, where I met some of the conference organisers and of course some of the RAC Attack Ninjas. I pretty much spent the rest of the day there, speaking to anyone and everyone that came within a three yard radius of me. :) Thanks to Mina Zadeh for getting the ball rolling on organising this! I hope we will be able to do this every year. Even if people don’t want to spend time during a one day conference doing the RAC installation, it acts as a good focal point for people to come and chat about RAC and any other Oracle technology that they are interested in. Kinda like a “meet the geeks” thing. :)

It was good to meet up with Debra Lilley again, as it must have been at least 9 days since I last saw her. Thanks for my little brass Ganesha!

My first presentation of the event was “An Oracle DBA’s Guide to WebLogic Server”. I felt really nervous at the start of this presentation. I’m very quick to tell people I am still a newbie and this is very much sold as, “What I wish I had been told in my first hour of learning WebLogic”. Even with that in mind, there is always a niggling doubt that people might be expecting something different, which feeds into the insecurities and the inferiority complex. I think it went OK, but the nerves made me race a little and it might have freaked some people out with the pace.

My second presentation was on “PL/SQL : Stop making the same performance mistakes”. Being back on familiar ground felt good! I was really relaxed for this one and just went with the flow and enjoyed it. I had to miss some slides at the end because of the shorter time slot, but all the information is on my website, so it’s not that big a deal in the scheme of things. :)

Despite the jetlag, Tom was on great form during the day. He’s got a very British sense of humour and he handles having the piss taken out of him really well, so when he pulled out his phone I couldn’t help but comment on how massive it looked next him. I think it was a Galaxy Note of some description, but it looked like me using an iPad for a phone. :) That prompted a comparison in hand sizes and I can now categorically state that my hands are smaller than Tom Kytes! That’s hardly surprising, since my hands are smaller than most humans above the age of 10 years old. After that bit of banter it was off to watch Tom do his thing for the last session of the day. I was in a playful mood, so I couldn’t help but heckle a bit. :) This morning I got an email from him pointing to this Dilbert strip.

From there it was a quick trip to the boat/bar next to the conference centre for a farewell drink, then it was off to get my plane. Patrick Hurley was on the same flight as me, so we got to chat for a while at the airport. We’ve met a few times, but I’ve never really got to speak to him for that long before. He’s a totally cool guy! He is also a witness to the fact I drank a pint of Guinness in Ireland before I got on the plane home!

I got back into my house at about 23:00, so it was a very long, but very enjoyable day.

Thanks to everyone at OUG Ireland for making this event happen and thank you for inviting me. I’m hoping this will become a yearly entry in my calendar from now on. Thanks also to all the RAC Attack Ninjas and of course to all the attendees, without whom there would be no conference. Thanks to OTN and The Oracle ACE Program. It’s a privilege to be able to represent you folks at these events!



OUG Ireland 2014 was first posted on March 12, 2014 at 11:10 pm.
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The Language of Pseudoscience

Mon, 2014-03-10 21:31

If Google were to characterise me based on my YouTube views, they would probably list me as some major conspiracy theory junkie. I watch a lot of conspiracy theory rubbish on YouTube, but for me it is light entertainment. I find it amusing to see how they try to present a bunch of random nonsense as science. Watch any of this stuff and you will hear the same types of phrases again and again…

  • “Many experts now believe” : Nice work. They are experts and there are many of them, so it must be true right? No qualification of who these experts actually are, what qualifies them as experts and how many of them constitutes “many”.
  • “There is a growing belief” : So yesterday there was one person that believed this and today there are three. That’s a belief that is certainly growing, so this is proof of that theory right?

Along these same lines, there is this idea that popularity is in some way related to truth. According to Wikipedia, the most popular religion in the world in 2012 was Christianity, so by this measure Christianity is scientifically proven to be true right?

There seems to be this strange disconnect these days between actual science and the public perception of what science really is. I get quite frustrated when I watch science shows on TV that have been dumbed down to the point where they sound more like pseudoscience. When real science is presented like pseudoscience, how is the general public meant to differentiate between that and your average Daily Mail story?

The term pseudoscience itself is open for interpretation, but the first paragraph of it’s definition on Wikipedia is quite interesting.

“Pseudoscience is a claim, belief or practice which is presented as scientific, but does not adhere to a valid scientific method, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status. Pseudoscience is often characterized by the use of vague, contradictory, exaggerated or unprovable claims, an over-reliance on confirmation rather than rigorous attempts at refutation, a lack of openness to evaluation by other experts, and a general absence of systematic processes to rationally develop theories.”

Real science is not a popularity contest and it’s not about vague statements. All information must be presented in the correct context with the appropriate caveats where necessary. If what you are reading/hearing/watching is not qualified properly at best it is watered down for public consumption. At worst it is total bullshit!

Rant over…



Update: Following on from Noons comment, disproof is the other side of the same coin. Same rules apply!

The Language of Pseudoscience was first posted on March 11, 2014 at 4:31 am.
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Oracle Midlands : Event #2

Sun, 2014-03-09 09:34

Just a quick reminder that the second Oracle Midlands event will be taking place on 25th March 2014.

At this event you will get a chance to see Graham Wood (my Dad) speaking about “Advanced ASH Architecture and Usage” and Nikolay Manchev speaking about “Using Clusterware 11g to protect single-instance databases”.

The event is sponsored by those kind folks at Red Gate Software, which means it is not going to cost you anything to come to the event. You can register here.

These events live or die based on your support. Please spread the word and come along. See you there!



Oracle Midlands : Event #2 was first posted on March 9, 2014 at 4:34 pm.
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Copyright Theft: not making my life easy!

Sat, 2014-03-08 03:55

Yesterday I was informed about someone stealing my content again. I take a pretty hard line to this these days. I used to be a little unsure about how to approach it, but now I just hit them with a DMCA take-down notice straight away. I’ve not got time to explain to everyone and their dog about copyright law…

So the current thief has nicked 35+ of my articles. I went to the DMCA Notice page and they say the usual stuff, except that you have to file a separate notice per blog post. All other services I’ve encountered allow you to post a single notice, listing all the offending posts. Not! (see update below)

So now I’m faced with posting 35+ notices, or not bothering. I’m posting the notices and a shitty email to By making this process significantly more clumsy than other service providers, they are playing into the hands of the thieves. I think this is an almighty fail on their part!



Update: have got back to me saying they have removed the offending content. They also said I should have posted a single DMCA notice for all the URLs on this blog. Easier said than done when the form prevents this! I think someone at needs to do some proper testing of their form.

Copyright Theft: not making my life easy! was first posted on March 8, 2014 at 10:55 am.
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OTN Yathra 2014 : It’s a Wrap

Wed, 2014-03-05 02:10

The OTN Yathra 2014 tour is over and I’m back home now. Here are all the blog posts from the tour.

Although I come from the second biggest city in the UK, Birmingham has a very slow pace in comparison to other UK cities. Friends had told me how busy India was, so I was quite nervous about this trip and how I would cope with it. My initial fears were confirmed during my first taxi ride from Amritsar airport to Jalandhar. Getting ill on the first morning of the tour wasn’t a good omen either. Once the kind folks at the Lovely Professional University sorted me out with some medical attention, things started to get better and I started to believe I might make it to the end of the tour alive. :)

As the tour progressed I got into my stride and really started to enjoy the whole process. As I’ve said many times, I’m not a fan of travelling, but I like being at different places. The travelling part of this tour was very strenuous, which was my own fault for choosing to do all 7 events, but that was easily outweighed by getting the opportunity to connect with the attendees and speakers in all the cities.

Here come the much deserved thank you messages:

  • Thanks to everyone from All India Oracle Users Group (AIOUG) involved in the organisation of this tour. Aman, SaiSatyendra and Murali did a great job of making the logistics as simple as possible.
  • Thank you to Oracle Corporation for the use of their offices and to all the Universities that let us visit them.
  • A big thank you goes out to Oracle Technology Network (OTN) and the Oracle ACE Program, without whom this tour would not have happened.
  • Thank you to my fellow speakers. I’m not sure I would have stayed sane on my journey from Jalandhar to Noida without the company of Raj Mattamal. :) Raj, Debra and Hans were welcome distractions from the hours spent in airports, planes and taxis. Thanks everyone for putting up with me. Thanks to all the other speakers that dotted in and out for specific events. It was fun to hook up with you all.
  • Finally, thank you to all the attendees for coming and supporting this event! Without you being there, the events would not happen, so if you want to see more of these events in future, please join AIOUG and get your friends to join too. :)

My lasting memories of India will be:

  • Crazy traffic.
  • Fantastic food.
  • Very friendly people.

Until next time…



OTN Yathra 2014 : It’s a Wrap was first posted on March 5, 2014 at 9:10 am.
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OTN Yathra 2014 : Chennai

Sat, 2014-03-01 11:41

Yesterday’s flight from Bangalore to Chennai was very short. It felt like less than an hour to me. Hans Forbrich wasn’t coming to this event, so it looked like Debra Lilley and I would be on our own for this journey, but we bumped into Kuassi Mensah at the airport. :)

The hotel was very nice, but doing in-room check in freaks me out. I know the hotels think it is something special, but I would rather check in at the front desk and go to my room on my own. There is something about having other people in my room that reminds me I am only one in a very long procession of people to use that space. Gives me the creeps…

Today’s Chennai event was held at the Loyola-ICAM College of Engineering and Technology (LICET), not far from our hotel. The keynotes from the University staff focussed on development of knowledge, rather than focussing just on facts or what skills you need to get a job. One of the slides read,

“Data becomes information when it is organised. Information becomes knowledge when it is placed in actionable context. Without context there is little value.”

I am always concerned when people or institutions focus totally on what is job-worthy as I think it develops blinkered individuals. Applied research can only be a part of the whole picture, not the total focus. It seems LICET has the same point of view as me. At the end of the keynote I felt really inspired and quite excited about the day ahead. :)

As part of the engineering course, the LICET students have access to a stripped back car, which has all the internal systems on display, allowing the students to see both the individual systems and how they fit into the big picture. I was asked if I wanted to drive this car, so I can now say I’ve driven in India. :)

I had a few minor issues with my laptop, but despite that my sessions got very positive feedback. As always, I spent a lot of time answering questions between my sessions and at the end of my last session as well.

Thanks to everyone at LICET and all the attendees for coming to the event. It really made for a great last event of the tour!

I fly home early tomorrow morning, so that I can get back in time for work on Monday. I’ll write a wrap-up post when I get home. :)



OTN Yathra 2014 : Chennai was first posted on March 1, 2014 at 6:41 pm.
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OTN Yathra 2014 : Bangalore

Thu, 2014-02-27 11:06

Yesterday’s flight to Bangalore was pretty quick, about 80 minutes if I remember correctly. We landed and were picked up by a car from the hotel. We were told the traffic would be terrible in Bangalore, but it wasn’t too bad. Debra managed to keep her eyes open for much of the journey. There were also a lot fewer car horns in comparison to Hyderabad. :)

The Marriott in Bangalore is very swish indeed and of course it has a buffet for dinner! :) I slept OK, but felt quite tired this morning. I think the events of the week are starting to get to me…

At the conference today, my sessions were at 15:00 and 17:00, so after the introductory session, I went to the speaker room, which was open to the attendees so we could chat in small groups. I played with APEX, between chatting to attendees and listening to Debra speaking to attendees about Fusion Apps.

After my first session I watched Supriya Ananth do a session on Pattern Matching in 12c, which was very interesting. I think I’m starting to understand it, but it’s going to take a lot of practice. Then it was back to me for the final session of the day. The group were asking lots of questions, which I love, but it did make me overrun by 20 minutes and there were still more questions to answer at the end. :)

Thanks to everyone at the Oracle office for another great day and thanks to everyone who came along to the talks, especially those that put me on the spot with some really good questions. It would have been nice if there was more time to just sit and chat about Oracle, but sadly, that was not to be.

So that was my penultimate event. Tomorrow I fly to Chennai for the last event on Saturday…



OTN Yathra 2014 : Bangalore was first posted on February 27, 2014 at 6:06 pm.
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VirtualBox 4.3.8

Wed, 2014-02-26 11:52

VirtualBox 4.3.8 has been released. The downloads and changelog are in the usual place. It’s a maintenance release, so lots of bug fixes.

Happy upgrading!



VirtualBox 4.3.8 was first posted on February 26, 2014 at 6:52 pm.
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OTN Yathra 2014 : Hyderabad

Tue, 2014-02-25 07:42

I literally got no sleep last night before the Hyderabad event today. My hotel room overlooked what looked like the busiest road in the world and Indian drivers have a love affair with their car horns. Every time I was about to nod off, a different tone of horn would wake me. :)

So this morning, with a breakfast of coffee in me, we headed off to the huge Oracle campus in Hyderabad! The event was split into a technical track and an apps track. Not surprisingly, I spent the day in the technical track.

After introducing ourselves, we started with the first session by Satyendra Kumar talking about 12c New Features, which focussed mainly on the CDB/PDB functionality. As I’ve said previously, it’s interesting to see how different people approach this topic. We all have a slightly different angle on the same subject. The next session was by Chaitanya Koratamaddi, who talked about APEX. I’m trying to get my APEX mojo back so I’m happy to listen to as much as possible about APEX. :)

I avoided lunch as I didn’t want to have an afternoon slump. What with missing a nights sleep, I would probably have fallen into a coma if I had eaten anything. After a coffee lunch it was my first session, which was on PL/SQL performance. That was followed up by Hans Forbrich talking about Oracle Linux, a subject dear to my heart. :) After that came Satyendra Kumar speaking about performance tuning in 12c, then lastly me speaking about Analytic Functions.

As usual I got chatting to people at the end and made us late. :) Thanks to everyone for making this run smoothly. Thank you to all the attendees, who asked lots of great questions and helped make the event a success!

So that is 5 out of 7 cities done! I’m going to go down to hit the buffet hard, then pray for sleep tonight, before tomorrow’s flight to Bangalore.



PS. I got back to my room to find my freshly washed clothes waiting for me. Happy days!

OTN Yathra 2014 : Hyderabad was first posted on February 25, 2014 at 2:42 pm.
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Oracle Certified Professional (OCP) : I’m in a promotional video!

Mon, 2014-02-24 11:31

I received a Facebook comment from Václav Kozák to say I was in a promotional video for the Oracle Education’s OCP Program, rockin’ an oraclenerd t-shirt I might add… :)

That was a 2 second soundbite from a 10+ minute interview I filmed with Oracle a couple of years ago. I am a fan of the OCP program, but my opinions are not necessarily in line with Oracle Education’s marketing message. Even so, I am happy I was included in the video, even if it was a small soundbite. :)

If you want to know more about my opinion of OCP, you might want to read this article.



Oracle Certified Professional (OCP) : I’m in a promotional video! was first posted on February 24, 2014 at 6:31 pm.
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OTN Yathra 2014 : Pune

Sun, 2014-02-23 10:06

The Pune event took place in the local Oracle office, which is a very impressive building.

I did three sessions at this event. I was in the first slot with a virtualization presentation, then spent most of the next session talking to some of the attendees. After lunch I had a session on PL/SQL performance, then watched two APEX sessions by Raj Mattamal. After that it was my final session for the day, which was on analytic functions. I spent a long time talking to some of the attendees after my last session, which made us quite late leaving. :)

It was a really enjoyable event, with some great interaction with the audience!

From there is was straight back to the hotel to eat far too much food. I have a feeling I will not be able to fit into the plane for the flight home at this rate. Being a vegetarian in India is brilliant! :)

Tomorrow we fly to Hyderabad for the next event…



OTN Yathra 2014 : Pune was first posted on February 23, 2014 at 5:06 pm.
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OTN Yathra 2014 : Mumbai

Sat, 2014-02-22 20:31

The Mumbai event took place in the local Oracle office and was attended by a straight technical crowd, which is much easier to present to than a mixed audience. :)

In addition to my own talks, I got to see some others too.

  • PS (Sai) Janakiram‘s session on Oracle VirtualBox was interesting. In addition to a general introduction to virtualisation, he did a live demo of VirtualBox, which seemed to capture the attention of the crowd. He also logged into HP’s Cloud service to show how many of the lessons learned from using VirtualBox apply equally well to using a large cloud provider’s service.
  • Aman Sharma‘s session on Oracle 12c Pluggable Databases, was pretty cool. I’ve written articles on the subject, but never presented on it, so it’s always good to see how people approach it. I’m glad he emphasised how the concept of CDB/PDB is fairly simple on the surface, but the impact on your average DBA is massive, which is very much my own feeling.
  • Vijay Sehgal’s session on SQL Tuning Basic was a good introduction to the subject. I find myself continually drawn to these types of sessions, hoping someone will show me “the magic button” that makes it all simpler. :) Not surprisingly, that didn’t happen, but once again it was good to see how someone approaches presenting the subject matter. I’ve only presented this type of material at internal sessions at work.

I had a lot of interaction with the attendees and speakers outside of the sessions, which is actually my favourite bit. :)

Thanks to everyone at the Oracle office in Mumbai for making us welcome and thanks to all the attendees for coming to the event. It was a very vocal audience, which makes for really fun sessions.

We left the Oracle office and drove straight to Pune, ready for the next event…



OTN Yathra 2014 : Mumbai was first posted on February 23, 2014 at 3:31 am.
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OTN Yathra 2014 : Noida

Thu, 2014-02-20 07:17

I woke up today feeling a little dodgy and for a moment I thought it would be a repeat of my morning in Jalandhar. Fortunately, once we got moving and I drank some really sweet tea, everything was OK.

Today’s event was based at the Sharda University in Noida. We were introduced to the crowd, presented with some flowers and lit a ceremonial lamp to mark the start of the event.

I attended Aman Sharma’s presentation on Oracle Certification and the ACE Program. The students are very job-focused, so they were interested in certification and also what opportunities were available in the community.

My first session was quite tough. The audience was a mix of external delegates who were Oracle users, students who had some Oracle knowledge and some students who had little-to-no Oracle knowledge. That’s quite a tough audience to tackle with a PL/SQL presentation. I tried to simplify things for the non-Oracle people, but it still scared a few off. In trying to simply the content, I probably undersold it to the people who knew Oracle, so it wasn’t the best of starts for me.

Based on the response from the first session, I switched the second to a talk about virtualization, which was more general, so not so challenging for the non-Oracle people in the audience. That definitely seemed to go down better.

Outside of the sessions, I spent a lot of time chatting with the students and external delegates, answering questions on a number of topics related to Oracle, so it was really good fun.

My thanks go out to everyone at Sharda University for making us so welcome. I hope everyone who attended was happy with the event.

Tomorrow we fly to Mumbai.



OTN Yathra 2014 : Noida was first posted on February 20, 2014 at 2:17 pm.
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OTN Yathra 2014 : Jalandhar

Wed, 2014-02-19 05:37

Day one did not start well. I woke up and couldn’t stop throwing up. I got to the Lovely Professional University, thinking it would stop, but it didn’t. The people at the University were really helpful and took me to the University doctor, who gave me an injection to stop the nausea. A few minutes later, things calmed down, just in time for my first session…

As soon as I hit the stage I felt fine and the session went well. Adrenalin is a wonderful thing! After the session I started to flag a little, but I was taken to get some food, which picked me up. India is a great place for a vegetarian. I was a little nervous about eating after the events of the morning, but the food was great and I felt much better after it.

In the afternoon I had two back-to-back sessions, which I got through without any incidents. After that, we spoke to a number of University staff members, including the Chancellor of the University, about the event and what we thought we achieved. I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone at the University for helping the event run smoothly and the much needed medical treatment!

From there it was off to get some food before our journey to Noida. Once again, the food was great. Thanks also to Aman Sharma for organising everything and for our presents. :)

After the food we got in our cab for the drive to Noida. We were told it would take 6-7 hours. By my estimate, it took about 10 hours. This included a couple of suspected tire problems and several breaks for the driver, who was falling asleep at the wheel. Towards the end of the journey, Raj Mattamal fell asleep, but I felt duty bound to stay awake, as I was having to stop the driver hitting curbs, launching headlong into barriers and missing our turnoffs. We eventually got to the hotel in Noida at about 03:30. By the time I had checked in and got to my room it was 04:00.

I was meant to be up this morning at 06:00 for a trip to the Taj Mahal, but after the events of the previous day I figured it would not be a great idea. Instead I slept until 14:00 and I’ve woken up feeling a little disorientated, but generally OK.

I’m going to try and do as little as possible today and hopefully be back to normal tomorrow for the next event. Fingers crossed!



OTN Yathra 2014 : Jalandhar was first posted on February 19, 2014 at 12:37 pm.
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OTN Yathra 2014 : The Journey Begins

Wed, 2014-02-19 04:54

It’s been a really tough lead up to this tour. I’ve already blogged about the panic over my visa and flights. Since that post my flights were cancelled, switched to some different flights, then switched back again. I only got the final confirmation on the Thursday night before leaving on the Sunday.

What with that and me stressing out about some stuff going on at work at the moment, I felt like cancelling so I could lock myself in my house for 2 weeks and not speak to anyone. I’m in definite need of a holiday!

Today started off with a last-minute shop for a new suitcase. I had forgotten mine was broken, so I rushed out and bought the first thing I saw. I got home, packed, then got a banging headache. I had a couple of hours before my taxi, so I went to bed to try and sleep it off.

The first flight was from Birmingham to Dubai at 20:30. Nothing too eventful there. I finally got to see “Gravity”, which was nice to look at, but not totally awe-inspiring like the trailers would have you believe. Unfortunately, no sleep during this flight.

After a 2 hour wait at Dubai, it was on to a 2 hour, plus change, flight to Delhi. I did a little bit of head-flopping during this flight, but nothing I would consider sleep.

It was my first time at Delhi airport, which feels spacious, bright and really clean. One of my flight combinations would have had me sitting there for 16 hours. I wouldn’t have fancied that, but spending a couple of hours there was fine. India does the “first port of entry” thing, so I had to get my bags, go through customs and check in for the internal flight. After a two hour wait at Delhi, it was a 1 hour flight to Amritsar. During the flight I asked the young man next to me about our destination. As we left the flight he was mobbed by admirers wanting photos with him. I said, “It seems you are really famous”, to which he replied, “I play cricket for India”. It turns out it was Harbhajan Singh. :)

It was a 2+ hour cab ride from Amritsar airport to Jalandhar. This was my first experience of driving in India. OMG! Lanes are irrelevant. The direction of the road is irrelevant. We were literally driving along a dual carriage way with cars and motorbikes coming towards us in our lane. All those photos you see of crazy things on the streets around the world are every day occurrences here. Multiple people on a single motorbike, including people holding children in bags etc. Few of the cars or lorries had working rear lights, so driving in the dark was an experience. Somehow, I managed to get to the hotel in one piece, but I think we did get hit by someone. The driver got out to check the back of the car, then carried on…

So that was about 16+ hours in transit after a full day in the UK. I’ve really got to learn how to sleep on these flights. The overnight things are killers…



OTN Yathra 2014 : The Journey Begins was first posted on February 19, 2014 at 11:54 am.
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Upgrades to 11g are finally complete

Wed, 2014-02-12 04:07

Just a little slice of reality to cut through all the 12c stuff that is floating around at the moment. I’ve just moved the last of our databases to 11g. Yay! As well as upgrading, we’ve been culling or consolidating old and unused stuff, which has drastically reduced and simplified our Oracle database landscape.

We currently have four projects running databases on HP-UX on Itanium (spit), one project on Solaris and the rest on Oracle Linux under VMware. If I had my way we would kick out HP-UX and Solaris and do everything on Oracle Linux.

We’ve still got one project on 11gR1, but that is being held back intentionally because of some issues with the vendor of the application that runs against it. Hopefully that will soon be on 11gR2 also.

So about 7 years after the release of 11gR1 and 5 years after the release of 11gR2 we have finally managed to get there. Judging by the conversations I’ve had over the last year, I would say we are ahead of the curve. There are still plenty of people out there with old versions lurking around for a variety of reasons…

With this in mind, what do you think our timescales are for a move to 12c? :) Like many people, I don’t think it will even be considered until 12cR2 is released and even then it won’t happen over night.

Even so, I still believe it is important that people get their heads around what 12c has to offer. Of all the releases in my time working with Oracle products, I think 12c is the one that is really going to mess with people’s heads. If people don’t spend a significant time getting to know this stuff they are going to make really bad decisions and totally stuff up their installations!



Upgrades to 11g are finally complete was first posted on February 12, 2014 at 11:07 am.
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OTN Yathra 2014

Tue, 2014-02-11 15:54

I’ve been a little quiet on the blog lately, mostly because I’ve been spending my time freaking out about the arrangements for the OTN Yathra 2014 tour of India. I had to apply for a visa, which in itself was not too bad, but I spent quite a long time without a passport, thanks to the courier not bothering to attempt a delivery. All that time I didn’t know if my visa application had been successful, so I wasn’t sure if I would have to submit it again. By the time that arrived, it was so late that booking the flights became interesting… At one point I wrote to Debra Lilley and said words to the effect of, I think this is just not meant to be!

Well tonight (Tuesday evening) I got my flights confirmed for my trip that I start on Sunday. :)

This is proving to be quite an expensive trip.

  • Visa: $130.00 – About £110 for the visa itself, and about £20 for the courier service.
  • Vaccinations: £250 – I feel like a human pincushion now. I had a bunch of boosters that were due, as well as stuff specifically for India.
  • Malaria Pills: £80 – We are in low risk areas (cities), but we are doing a couple of journeys between cities by bus, which travel through high-risk areas (countryside), so they advised me not to take any chances. I could have got the cheaper pills for about £8, but I decided to go for the ones with less side affects. I don’t see the point in travelling all that way to stand on a stage and feel like crap because of the anti-malaria pills. At least these should minimise the chances of that. If so, that’s worth a few extra quid.

For those that think this Oracle ACE thing is a free ride, you don’t get any of this money back!

I’ve still got stuff to get, like insect repellent. My pastey white skin seems to be very appetising to insects and I am not a stranger to infections when I do get bitten. Fingers crossed I can avoid the worst of it…

Getting to this point has been a bit of a trial. :) Thanks to everyone who has helped. Murali put together a great pack to help the speakers plan the trip and Lillian and Vikki from the Oracle ACE Program have done a great job pushing through my last minute travel bookings!

Normally I’m doing the thanks when the events are over. :)

Let’s hope everything from now on goes a little smoother than it has up until now!





OTN Yathra 2014 was first posted on February 11, 2014 at 10:54 pm.
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KeePass 2.25

Wed, 2014-02-05 02:58

KeePass 2.25 has been released. The changelog and downloads are in the usual places.

You can read how I use KeePass across all my machines and devices here.



KeePass 2.25 was first posted on February 5, 2014 at 9:58 am.
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The only way is automation! (update)

Tue, 2014-02-04 03:23

I was a little surprised by the reaction I got to my previous post on this subject. A number of people commented about the problems with automation and many pointed to this very appropriate comic on the subject.

There are one of two conclusions I can draw from this.

  1. My definition of automation of tasks is very much different to other people’s.
  2. It is common for DBAs and middle tier administrators to do everything by hand all the time.

I’m really hoping the answer is option 1, because I think it would be really sad if being a DBA has degenerated to the point where people spend their whole life doing tasks that could be easily scripted.

So what do I mean when I speak about automation? Most of the time I’m talking about basic scripting. Let’s take and example I went through recently, which involved cloning a database to refresh a test system from production. What did this process entail?

  • Export a couple of tables, that contain environment specific data.
  • Generate a list of ALTER USER commands to reset passwords to their original value in the test system.
  • Shutdown the test database.
  • Remove all the existing database files.
  • Create a new password file.
  • Remove the current spfile.
  • Startup the auxillary DB using a minimal init.ora file
  • Do an RMAN duplicate. In this case I used an active duplicate as the DB was relatively small. If this were a backup-based duplicate, it would have required an extra step of copying the backups using SCP to somewhere that could be seen on the test server.
  • Replace some environment-specific directory objects.
  • Unregister the old test database from recovery catalog.
  • Register the new test database with the recovery catalog.
  • Remove the old physical backups.
  • Drop all database links and recreate database links to point to the correct location for the test system.
  • Reset the passwords to their original values from the old test system.
  • Lock down all users, except those I’ve been asked to leave open.
  • Truncate and import the tables I exported at the start.

None of those tasks are difficult. It requires only a basic knowledge of shell scripting to allow me to start a single shell script and come back later to see my newly refreshed test environment.

What’s the alternative? I perform all the same tasks individually, but have to sit there waiting for each step to finish before I can move on to the next. No doubt, during this time I will be distracted by phone calls or colleagues asking me questions, which drastically increases the risk of human error.

When I talk about automation, I’m not talking about some Earth shattering AI system. I’m talking about scripting basic tasks to make myself more efficient.

At times you have to draw a line. There is no point making your automation too clever because it just becomes a rod for your own back. I’m a DBA, not a software house. This is what people are really warning about, which I did not really make clear in my first post. If something is liable to change each time you do it, you are better having a written procedure to work from, reminding you of the necessary steps and how to determine what needs to be done. You can’t become a slave to automation.



The only way is automation! (update) was first posted on February 4, 2014 at 10:23 am.
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Oracle Linux and MySQL

Mon, 2014-02-03 17:58

I’m in the process of taking on some of the MySQL databases in my company. The first ones are MySQL 4.1 running on Windows, so we are upgrading them to MySQL 5.6 on Oracle Linux. As with many of our systems, these will be running on VMware virtual machines.

Since the current installations are so old, we are planning on dumping out the data and creating fresh installations on the new systems. Based on the advice I got from Ronald Bradford and Sheeri Cabral, we are also taking this opportunity to switch to InnoDB and utf8, rather than MyISAM and latin1 that are currently used.

We are using the MySQL yum repository for the installation, so we can be on the latest MySQL version, rather than that shipped as part of Oracle Linux (or RHEL) 6.5. The other neat thing about this is it takes care of point release upgrades as part of the “yum update” process.

So far all my testing has been done on VMs running on my PC, but we are soon going to start rolling this out. It should be an interesting piece of work. The developers are doing a bunch of testing with InnoDB and utf8 to see what issues we come up against…



Update. For those new to MySQL, you might like to read this post by Patrick Hurley.


Oracle Linux and MySQL was first posted on February 4, 2014 at 12:58 am.
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