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July 2011

The New Order Oracle Coding Challenge 1

July 31, 2011 (Forward to the Next Post in the Series) Years ago I played a couple of different games with letters, rather than numbers, on dice – attempting to form words from the letters displayed on top of the dice.  I was not very good with those games, and I recall attempting to create a [...]

UKOUG Special event: Security.

UKOUG Security event
Event date: 
Tue, 2011-09-13

A special UKOUG event on security held at the birthplace of computing, and featuring a presentation from Pete Finnigan (Oak Table).
A tour of this historic site will be available for attendees, but make sure you register early.

Downtime is sexy

See video

NoCOUG Summer Conference 2011

Event date: 
Thu, 2011-08-18

Now in its 25th year and 100th Conference
Three streams of technical information and a keynote by Jonathan Lewis

Incident Notification – Pythian internal – Jul 29th 3PM EDT

We have incident reporting procedures at Pythian. This incident report was sent just recently internally at Pythian. We learned some good lessons from it so I hope it would be useful to the community as well – copying it below as is… As part of our incident management process, you will find below a summary [...]

Oracle RAC SIG presentation tips

Yesterday I proudly presented a one hour training class about upgrading to Oracle 11.2 RAC at This was the first time I presented using this facility and thought it might be useful for others to learn about the procedures and hopefully encourage other speakers to follow suit. It’s really straight forward and there is nothing to worry about! Especially if you are already familiar with webex, presenting should be a piece of cake. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So how do you get to present?

The Proposal

First of all, speak to the RAC SIG board, you should be able to get the email addresses from the website. You need to submit an abstract of your talk to the committee, and once they have decided to go ahead it’s all about scheduling. You should know that Oracle RAC SIG records your session, whilst Oracle University kindly provide the infrastructure in form of their Webex facility and conference calls.

The Technical Part

For those of you who don’t know webex, it’s a Cisco product which you can use to host web conferences on. It is very good for all sorts of screen sharing to a larger audience, and as a RAC SIG presenter you are effectively sharing your desktop with the participants. But image only doesn’t cut it, we need audio as well! Audio can either be part of the presentation stream via the webex-presentation, or you need to dial in to a toll-free number (available from I have tested this both as a presenter and a participant, and it works really well. Just be sure to dial in 5-10 minutes early, as you will have to be connected to the correct meeting via an operator. This is especially true for the presenter.

Leading up to the Event

I suggest you contact Oracle RAC SIG 1-2 weeks prior to the event if your presentation has not yet appeared on the website. After all we would like some participants to listen to our talk! Remember that the website and everything is mainly run by volunteers so be patient and don’t expect a reply in 5 minutes.

When the time of the event approaches, roughly 3-5 days before it starts, you will get an email from the team informing you about the URL for the webex presentation, the dial-in code and some reminders for a successful session, which I’d like to repeat here:

  • Use a landline – not cell phone. Voice quality suffers too much on a mobile device
  • Don’t use a headset unless it is really, really good!  Use the handset. It might even be that the use of a cordless phone has a negative impact on the sound quality
  • Get on the webcast 15-20 minute s early to test connectivity and sound quality

Also ensure you send Oracle your slides to go to the website a few days before the scheduled event. At the time of writing, Dennis Karashima from Oracle was our liaison (again check the website for up to date information).

On the Day

If you are in the lucky situation that your employer actively endorses your presentation and it’s part of your work anyway, then it may be a good idea to use an office Internet connection and office phone (granted explicit permission from the company).

Otherwise, if you are not in the US, having a fast and reliable Internet connection upstream can really reduce latency. A good phone helps as well, and again, don’t use a cell phone, use a land line instead.

Roughly 30 minutes before the start of the webcast, join the webex as a participant, even if you are the presenter. The whole procedure is initiated from Oracle. Also ensure to dial in to your toll free number for the conference call. You are greeted by an operator, give him/her your passcode and they will put you through to the line where Oracle are already waiting. You are greeted by the very kind Dennis Karashima who is guiding you through the initial steps.  These include a connectivity test for the recording as well as some feedback about audio quality. In my case, I was advised to pause for 2-3 seconds after slide transitions or animations to allow the other participants to follow. Again, a better Internet connection can reduce the latency here.

Only at that stage are you told to share your desktop-don’t try this before you are prompted :) After the setup is complete, you will hear the advertisement from Oracle University, after which it’s your show to run.

Good luck!

If you are in a situation to open a Q & A session, announce this at the end of your presentation and liase with the operator to get questions.

That’s it-not scary at all, and really something more of us should do.

Friday Philosophy – Picture Theft!!!

Last week’s Friday Philosophy was a bit of a moan about how hard I find it to make nice graphics, how long it takes and no one seems to care that much about the results.

Well, after those two days effort on the pictures and the afore mentioned moan, irony of irony, someone has stolen one of my graphics!. So someone likes my efforts ;-) . It is the one that represents how you scan down the levels of an index and then link across to the table via the rowid.

Before I go any further I better make it clear that I am not really upset about it at all :-) . In fact, since the scoundrel included a link back to my web page and they are considerably better known than I, my little blog has had a big up-swing in traffic as a result, which is nice. Mind you, as the person who borrowed my diagram is SQL Server expert Steve Jones, of SQLSeverCentral/Redgate fame, most of my new audience are probably pretty focused on the SQL Server RDBMS and not Oracle, so unlikely to make many return visits unless they are work across the RDBMS boundaries.

What also gives me a little smile is that I have stumbled over the fact that I myself, back in November 2009, was looking for such a diagram {of the way Oracle steps down the index to the leaf blocks, gets the rowid and then straight to the table row} to ‘borrow’ for a post of my own on BLevel and heights of indexes. I even confessed at the time to looking for and failing to find one to use…

Humour aside, it set me to thinking though. Borrowing content is a perennial and thorny issue.

Occasionally someone will start putting content out on their blog or web site and it turns out that much of that content is directly obtained from other peoples’ blogs and websites – copy&pasted straight in or with little changes. That is generally seen by the original author as unacceptable and once they find out they object. In such cases it sometimes seems the culprit is unaware of this being a transgression and, once it is explained that they have effectively stolen many hours or days of someone’s efforts, they remove the material. Others seem aware this is theft but do not care until caught. Occasionally the culprit sees no error in their ways at all, even when challenged, as the material had been put “out there” so they now consider it free to all. I certainly do not agree. Perhaps the worst thing you see though is people including parts of published books, or even putting the whole book out there for download. Such people should of course have their hands stapled to their backsides in punishment, that is simple theft. Writing blogs takes a long time and effort, writing technical books takes forever and monumental effort. I know from friends that the financial return for such efforts is pitiful enough as it is.

On the other side of the coin, many of us put our stuff out there on the web to be read and used and are very happy for it to spread, to be borrowed from and disseminated. Like nearly all DBAs and developers, over the years I have written lots of little SQL scripts to pull information out of the data dictionary or do little database management tasks. I happily give away copies of these to anyone who wants them (and you can get them off my web site if you like, but just pretend it is not my website, as it is truly awful). All I ever ask is that whoever takes them leaves my name in them.

I think that is core to the issue. I suspect many of us bloggers are happy for small parts of our output to be borrowed so long as credit is given. I certainly am {but please note, this is my personal opinion – other bloggers may object very strongly and any repercussions on you in respect of taking material from other blogs and web sites is your concern}. However, Volume is also part of it. The larger the chunk you borrow, the more acknowledgement I would need to be happy about it. Borrowing a single diagram or a paragraph out of a page of text is OK, given I am cited for it. Taking most of a post would probably not, unless you asked first, were really nice about it and about me. Nicking a set of course notes I wrote is certainly unacceptable, no matter how much you put “originally written by that wonderful Martin Widlake” on it.

So, I think you need to cite the source as “payment” for using it. Perhaps the best way to do it is by simply linking to the material rather than putting it on your blog/website, but that does not work if you need the content within yours to make sense. In which case, I think Steve Jones’ approach of putting the content in his and including a link is reasonable. It might have been nice if there was a comment saying where the image came from but I can live without it. Despite my joking about it giving me more hits to my blog, it does not matter that his is a popular web site and gives me more hits. Even if a site gets no traffic, if someone has borrowed a small part of my output but cited me as the source, I’m cool with that.

The problem though is judging what is a “small” part to borrow and what is acceptable to the original author. We all perceive such things differently. So the safest thing is to ask the original author. If I want to use an idea that came from someone else in one of my blogs or a solution they came up with, I always ask and I ask if they want to be cited. This includes discussions in email or in the pub. I ask. If when preparing my blogs I learn a lot from someone else’s blog, I stick in a link and a comment, even though I will have written my own text. I hope that so far I have not upset anyone when I borrow a little.

Photos are a different issue though. I am not going to even attempt to cover that one!

Snowdon viewed from Yr Aran

Training Schedule for 2011 and Public Appearances

Online Seminars
A lot of people have asked me about whether I’d be doing any more seminars in the future. And the answer is yes – at least this year (might be too busy running a company the next year ;-)
I have finally put together the schedule for my 2011 seminars. In addition to the Advanced Oracle Troubleshooting seminar I will also deliver my Advanced Oracle SQL Tuning and Oracle Partitioning and Parallel Execution for Performance seminars, which I have done only onsite in past.
So, check out the seminars page:
Also don’t forget the Expert Oracle Exadata virtual conference next week!
Public Appearances

Oracle OpenWorld 2. October
  • I will talk about Large-Scale Consolidation onto Oracle Exadata: Planning, Execution, and Validation
  • Session ID 09355
Maybe I’ll lurk around the UKOUG venue as well in december ;-)

Real World Book Shops…

I’ve had a Waterstones gift token knocking around since my birthday, so I ventured into town yesterday to see if there were any technical books I could spend my pennies on. There’s a pretty big Waterstones in Birmingham, so I thought I was in with a shot at finding something worthwhile in there. How wrong I was…

The place was full of “… For Dummies”  books for old versions of Windows and Office, along with a vast collection of really old reference books. If anyone needs a “Teach yourself VB 5.0″ manual, you know where to go!

When it’s my money I’m spending I almost always buy from Amazon. Part of me wants to support real world book stores, but the truth of the matter is they are really crappy for anything other than the latest bestseller novels, which are still typically more expensive than the equivalent from Amazon.

In the end I bought Ghost Story, the new Jim Butcher book from The Dresden Files series. I’ll see if I can spend the rest of the cash on the Waterstones online store. Must tell family that if they want to waste money on birthday presents for me, they should do it on Amazon gift certificates. :)



The Unique Result Oracle Database Coding Challenge

July 28, 2011 I must say that I am impressed with the number of unique solutions that were developed for the previous coding challenge (FizzBuzz).  While not all solutions were extremely efficient (a couple were intentionally designed to be as inefficient as possible), the various techniques provide views of different approaches to solving a problem [...]