Tuesday, November 07, 2006

UKOUG Conference: Development Tools Round Table

The guy who taught the first Unix course I ever attended could edit command line strings faster then we could read them. After one particular bravura display of text manipulation his audience gave a collective gasp. David (I think that was his name) looked up and said, almost sheepishly, "Well vi is the only word processor I know". Even in 1992 that seemed impressive. Bizarrely, in his spare time this bloke wrote software for the Apple Newton, a gadget about as far from the Unix command line as it was possible to get at the time. If I had have read Neal Stephenson's In the Beginning Was The Command Line then, I would have had a finer appreciation of the nuances of this contradiction.

Tools are one of the things that unite and divide developers. Spats frequently break out in the forums over the vexed matter of PL/SQL IDEs vs text editors and SQL*Plus. On the one hand GUIs allow us to be more productive, by automating tedious or complicated processes. On the other hand they shield us from an understanding of the task in hand, which makes it harder for us to work when we have to deal with something the GUI cannot handle. The question of which text editor is another one which frequently causes the hackles to rise. The alpha geeks argue whether vim or emacs is the most studly. Whereas my penchant for TextPad marks me out as a wussy Windows user. I am just starting to use UltraEdit and appreciate some of its features (the hex mode saved my bacon recently) but I don't think I will grow to love it like I love TextPad.

Of course in the Oracle tools realm there has been a lot of activity in the last couple of years. On the one hand the traditional tools like Forms, Reports and Designer are in various levels of neglect, as newer technologies like JDeveloper and XML Publisher come into the ascendant. On the other hand there has been a flurry of activity on the part of Oracle to hook in developers early: SQL Developer, ApEx, Oracle XE. This is a belated recognition by Oracle that at least part of the reason for Microsoft's dominance has been its wooing of developers. Getting developers' mind share is crucial in the uptake of development tools for one reason: recruitment. Nobody ever said "We can't build this in VB, where we find people who know the language?" Perhaps the question "Where will find VB developers with sufficient smarts to build a half-decent application?" should have been asked more often, but the same is true of almost any programming language.

At the UKOUG Conference this year I will be facilitating a round table session on Development Tools. This is a new format for the UKOUG this year and I don't think anybody is quite sure how it is going to work in practice. But the theory is simple: a room of, er, round tables at which people sit and discuss the topic in hand. No podiums, no Powerpoint, just discussion. It might turn out to be the Focus Pubs without the beer. I'm not sure whether the tables will be switched at fixed intervals (like speed dating)

We have on hand four experts to assist me in the generation of debate:

  • Sue Harper, Oracle, SQL Developer Product Manager
  • Grant Ronald, Oracle, Forms Product Manager
  • Omar Tazi, Oracle, Open Source Evangelist
  • Sten Vesterli, Scott/Tiger, consultant

Each of us will host a table dedicated to one topic in the Tools space. Grant will be majoring on the roadmap for Oracle development tools. Sue will be drawing on her experience in Designer, JDeveloper and SQL Dev to assess options for modelling database applications. Omar will be there to discuss open source tools for Oracle, both what's available and opportunities for participation. Sten will be bringing his expertise in Comparative Tools Studies - Forms, J2EE, even Oracle Power Objects. And I will be hosting a table on miscellaneous tools and utilities which may just turn into a session of What's On Your USB Drive?

Of course this is all irrelevant if nobody else turns up. So please come along. Bring your questions, your suggestions, your opinions. Bring your USB drives if you must :). The more fervent your opinions and the more searching your questions the better the session will be.

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Anonymous Roel said...

Hi Andrew,
Alas..I have to visit the LOUD event in Amsterdam. Keep us updated of what's happening in Birmingham!

7 November 2006 at 08:00:00 GMT-8  
Blogger Laurent Schneider said...

Solaris System Programming by Richard Teer has been entirely written in vi, probably one of the best book to read :-)

7 November 2006 at 09:50:00 GMT-8  
Blogger APC said...

...which I believe proves my point about alpha geeks ;)

Cheers, APC

8 November 2006 at 01:42:00 GMT-8  
Blogger Donal said...

I'll attend your round table and will field an Application Express questions or questions on our migration tools


8 November 2006 at 02:04:00 GMT-8  
Blogger APC said...

I'll keep an eye out for the Rosetta Stone in a Oracle polo shirt ...

8 November 2006 at 07:55:00 GMT-8  

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