UKOUG Annual Conference: A retrospective
Another difference between Open World and UKOUG, as Mark Rittman has also observed, is that us UKOUG committee members were there to do a job, so blogging in real time was difficult. Here are my personal highlights from the annual conference.
Best Presentation: Developing your career through system disasters by Martin Widlake
An irresistible title and a first class presentation. It wasn't just cynical laughing at the dumb things people do, it also gave tips on how to turn those dumb things to your professional advantage. Martin was full of useful insights, advice and aphorisms. "Disaster tolerant software isn't". Compressed time scales "move us into our stretch zones and develop our resilience skills". Interestingly enough the presentation turned, briefly, into a lecture on the value of certain RAD/Agile practices, specifically, developing systems in discrete chunks that take no longer than three months to deliver. As Martin said:
You don't understand your users. That's okay because they don't understand you either.
This is the situation he calls the Knowledge Curtain.
Most Brain Stretching Presentation: Null values: Nothing to worry about by Lex de Haan
It wasn't the SQL that fazed me it was the calculus. I'm a historian, get me out of here! Lex delivered a through exploration of how
NULLworks in SQL and the relationship between the empty set and
NULL. The key fact is that a
NULLin a arithmetic expression returns
NULLwhereas group functions ignore
NULL. He gave us some good hints for writing queries to handle
NULLwithout getting the wrong results. Definitely a presentation to download and work through the examples.
Most Interesting Factoid: How To Handle Missing Information Without Using Nulls by Hugh Darwen
I always thought that the reason the relational theory crowd didn't like
NULLwas because they objected to the absence of meaning. Hugh said that if SQL had implemented
NULL=NULLthat would have been okay. Well, okay-ish. The absence of meaning would still be a problem but it's the additional work necessary to handle
NULLthat really rankles (I supect Fabian Pascal may take a different stance). Anyway, Hugh started his presentation with the observation that everybody in the audience had a vested interested in the badness of SQL and ended it with an exhortation to us to pester Oracle for better SQL. Guilty as charged, but I'm afraid I'm more likely to pester Oracle for a more complete Type implementation than I am to ask for changes to the SQL standard. Although I do think being able to
SELECT * EXCEPT comm FROM emp;would be nice to have.
Worst Start To A Presentation: Performance from a Different Perspective by Mogens Nørgaard
There's never a good time to hear the skirl of the bagpipes but 9.00am is really bad. (My father was Scottish so I'm allowed to say this.) At last year's conference Mogens presented without shoes. This year he presented without trousers1. It might be a good idea to skip next year's presentation ;)
Most Depressing Fact: Does ADF live up to the hype? by Paul Jeynes
In 2000 when I was working on a project using BC4J with JDeveloper3.0 we had real problems getting any kind of assistance from Oracle Support or finding relevant How To documentation. Of course, in those days Java was still supported by the Server Tech guys because Support thought it was only used in the database. Five years on, ADF is here, Java is primarily used in the J2EE web environment and the quality of support does not seem to have improved much.
Most Intriguing Business Move: The Launch of Oracle Express Edition by Tom Kyte
As Tom observed at the start of his presentation this has already been widely blogged even before the launch but he still managed to generate a buzz. Obviously giving away a free database was (with hindsight) almost inevitable in the current database market. People do like free as a price. I think the interesting thing about Oracle XE is its potential as a MySQL killer. With Oracle XE you are going to get a reliable database with stored procedures, triggers and relational integrity. Furthermore, you've got an easy migration path if you exceed the (generous) limits or need certain enterprise features. Probably the only people who aren't going to choose XE are zealots in the Open Source and the Microsoft communities. Who'd have thought they'd end up on the same side? So, taken with the purchase of InnoDB, I think Oracle really has MySQL AB by the short and curlies.
The only thing Oracle can do to muck this up is not issue patches, at least for show stopping bugs and security holes. There's no point in encouraging thousands of new people to join the Oracle community if means exposing them to Oracle-focused worms. Whilst stealing Microsoft's shtick on helping developers and learners Oracle do not also want to give themselves Redmond's reputation on security issues.
Best Meal: The Oracle Blogger's Dinner by Mark Rittman
Actually this is not a difficult call as catering for over two thousand people over short periods of time rarely generates fine cuisine. Still, thanks to Mark for organising it and thanks to James Haslam of the UKOUG for sponsoring it. It was nice to be able to put faces to some of the blogs I read. I think next time we should wear badges with the name of our blogs. By the way, what is it with Chinese restaurants? The set menus are always ridiculously over-specified. The third course had far too many dishes. As the sole troublesome veggie I ended up with three dishes all to myself plus rice, on top of the previous two courses. Thank goodness I had been unable to fill myself up on prawn crackers beforehand.