Thursday, March 30, 2006

The meaning of "Raptor"

Recently I was browsing Google Images to find some dinosaur pictures for my son when I was struck by the startling resemblance between the old Project Raptor splashscreen and this picture of a velociraptor. Separated at birth? Or just Photoshop?

From the MantyWeb site I learnt that the name velociraptor means "speedy thief". So you can see why the team had to drop the "speedy" bit - it is written in Java after all ;) But why did they have to drop the "thief" bit too? Perhaps because a certain amphibian might start croaking about infringements of intellectual copyright? Surely not.

Anyway, the Extension SDK is now available for the minimal JDeveloper install so I can start to work on my idea for a SQL Developer addin. Or at least I can once JDeveloper has restarted. I see Shay Shmeltzer has posted some tips for making JDeveloper go faster. Might be worth a gander.


In fairness I must report that restarting JDeveloper took less than a minute. It's only when we start it up the first time after a reboot and the JRE is not instantiated that it takes long enough for a coffee break.

California Dreaming

I have just received an e-mail from the UKOUG. Oracle are looking for volunteers to participate in a Beta lab for the forthcoming Data Vault product. This is a very interesting development in database security and one which I have been awaiting since I attended a presentation at OOW2K5SF. So I'm very keen to participate.

The only problem is, the event is in a fortnight's time and the location is Redmond, CA. Somehow I just don't think I'll be able to get this past the bosses. In fact, the phrase "a snowball's chance in Heck" comes to mind.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Oracle XE on Mac: if not now, when?

As soon as Oracle announced XE lots of people asked the question, "When will it be available on Mac?" I'm not aware of any statement from Oracle about why XE is not available for Mac - or Unix come to that. I'm not interested in running XE on a Mac but it turns out this question offers an interesting perspective on Oracle's database licencing policy.

If you look at platforms which are supported for XE - Windows and Linux - what they have in common is the Intel chip. So perhaps the answer to the question lies in the need to restrict Oracle XE to a single CPU. XE does this by binding to a processor at start-up, and apparently this is a lot easier to do with Intel chips than other chip architectures. So my guess is we might see ports of XE to Solaris for x86 and also those new Macs running on Intel chips but not for other *nix flavours.

Incidentally, this came up when I was talking with a Unix sysadmin about Oracle per processor licences and the possibility of Oracle limiting non-XE databases to the number of processors licenced. The conversation started with a discussion of whether Oracle really consider capped Solaris 10 Containers to be hard partitions for the purposes of per processor licensing. Sun say yes, but he thought Oracle might take a harder line on this, seeing as how Containers are essentially dynamic. Anybody have a definitive ruling on this?

Anyway, the upshot is, just because Oracle have built a CPU restriction into the XE install it doesn't mean we're likely to see similar enforcements in the licenced products any time soon. And that means if you've got a tweleve CPU server you need twelve per processor licences, even if you want to run Oracle on only one of them.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Oracle profit announcements

Oracle has just announced profits up 42% on a revenue increase of 18%. That's a pretty good margin they're making. Most of this is from Applications rather than selling more database licences. Apparently, Oracle's strategic acquistions of PeopleSoft and JDEdwards is already bearing fruit.

So that's only another seventeen billion dollars to go before they've paid off the cost of all those acquisistions. Still, at least Larry will be able to sleep soundly at night instead of worrying about whether he can pay more than the monthly minimum on his credit card bill.

Friday, March 17, 2006

New HTMLDB book out

Amazon are now selling Oracle HTML DB Handbook from Oracle Press. I guess nobody told Larry or Bradley that the name was about to change to Oracle Application Express. Interesting that Amazon have chosen to pair it with the Oracle Press book on Oracle Application Server 10g Web Development because TAFKAH is all about building Oracle web apps in as simple a fashion as possible and OAS, er, isn't.

Buy the book now

Thursday, March 16, 2006

UKOUG Combined SIG 2006 Report

This was the second time three UKOUG SIGs - Development Engineering, Modelling & Design, and App Server - have combined to offer a shared experience. I like this event because it offers the crucial aspect of the conference (choice) without the boring bits (keynotes from marketing VPs).

The DE Stream

I'm very happy with the DE Stream of this event. Each presentation was valuable and worth attending (no, honestly).

Ivan Pellegrin's presentation turned out to be only tangentially related to Customer Data Hub, which was a bit disappointing. However, his summation of Service Oriented Architecture was very good and interesting; I have sat through a lot of talks on SOA, BPM, BRM and BPEL recently and Ivan's was the most coherent overview of the topic I've heard.

Most interesting fact: SOA is the Dutch acronym for STD (that's the medical STD not the telco meaning).

Jonathan Ellard gave a thorough overview of Oracle's new XML Publisher. Now that Oracle have extracted it from Apps and packaged it as a standalone product this looks set to replace Reports as the tool of choice for producing documents. By modularising the various aspects of a document - data logic, layout and format - it makes documents easier to manage and quicker to modify. It also hands control of the appearance back to the business users. Jonathan demonstrated the cardinal virtue of having a demo in your presentation: you can squeeze it if you're running short of time without affecting the overall shape of the talk. Although he really ought to have had the licensing details to hand. People will always ask that question.

Most interesting fact: Oracle Apps has ~90,000 RDF files.

Rob Baillie's talk on Agile Database Development was really interesting. He avoided the sort of buzzwords that seem to annoy people (refactoring, pair programming) and concentrated on the practices that are key to success in a database project regardless of whether it's "agile": properly implemented source control, a simple, robust and tested build script, and clear demarcation of development code from working code. Rob started his presentation by saying that he hoped everybody else in the Oracle world was building systems liked this and that therefore everybody would feel he had wasted their time. I think it's safe to say that nobody in the audience felt they had wasted their time listening to Rob. It was his first presentation but you wouldn't have guessed it: he was fluent and confident, and his talk was well-structured.

Most useful piece of advice: Assume that the person performing the upgrade is an idiot.

We had a full house for Sue Harper's demonstration of SQL Developer, which I think is testament to the interest there is in this part of the tool space. Sue's an old hand at UKOUG presentations but she's only been on the SQL Developer team for a couple of months so I think it was still an edgy prospect for her. In the course of the demo she discovered a couple of (very minor) issues to raise when she got back to the office. Overall, a good introduction to an exciting new product.

Most interesting fact (actually not from the presentation but gleaned whilst chatting to Sue afterwards): every person on the SQL Developer team (even the managers) has to build and maintain an addin as their own personal project. I think this is a very good idea: it keep everybody aware of the quality of the user experience and it should provide some useful extensions.

The event overall

As it goes, so it went.

I must say that the turnout was a little on the low side, disappointingly so. Down a third on last year. Why is this? Slough's not that bad. Perhaps it was due to the lack of Forms presentations but I doubt it. Rather it is symptomatic of the broader problem we have on the development side of things. We usually have a much smaller turnout for developer/designer/deliverer SIGs than the DBA-oriented SIGs get.

I confess to being a bit puzzled by this: on any project I've ever worked on, the DBAs have been outnumbered by analysts, designers, developers and project managers by at least five to one. So how the disparity in turnout? I have a couple of theories. One is that the UKOUG memberships tend to be managed by DBAs. This kind of makes sense: Oracle's a database and the DBAs manage the database so why not have them manage the user group stuff too? But I suspect that many memberships are managed by gatekeepers who attend the meetings they are interested in but don't publicise the other SIGs to people throughout their organisation.

My other theory is that developers are only allowed to attend meetings that deal with stuff that is immediately relevant to their current job. This also makes sense. Sending someone out of the office for a day costs, both in lost productivity and expenses. The DE SIG has to cover a very broad waterfront: traditional tools like Forms and Reports, new kids like JDeveloper and TAFKAH, plus PL/SQL, XML and Java generally, third party products, development practices, architecture, etc. It's a rare individual who's going to have a job that requires immediate knowledge of all of those things. But in the fast moving world of technology it is important to have an awareness of all the things that are going on, even if we're not using them right now. So you're a Forms shop: does that mean Java is not relevant to you? Even now Java is a way to add functionality into a Forms application. But Fusion is coming and Fusion is going to be pure J2EE. Once Oracle Apps has completely replaced all its Forms how long will Oracle keep the tool going? Well the roadmap says Forms will be supported at least until 2013 but that's actually not very far away (Forms 6.0 is almost as old now as Forms 10 will be by then).

What is the solution to the case of the missing developers? I haven't got one yet. I think it's what Sherlock called "a three pipe problem".

Last word

I did a quick survey of blog awareness amongst the audience. Whilst just about everybody used some forum or other less than half of them read any blogs. And only six people actually maintained one (including me). Everybody else must have a life or something.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Rumours of JDeveloper's svelteness have been exaggerated

A couple of years ago some of my J2EE colleagues switched from JDeveloper9i to Eclipse. They were not using ADF and they complained of feature bloat. Now there may have been a certain amount of "CV engineering" in this but they did have a point. The JDev download was then about 320MB compared to Eclipse's skinny 80MB. This was not because Eclipse had less features. It was just that Eclipse offered a bare framework and then we downloaded addins whereas JDeveloper made us download everything but we could switch off the bits we didn't want.

When I tell my friends in Oracle this they point out that JDeveloper has changed its approach now and it too offers a bloat-free framework with the option to just install what we need. Er, up to a point, Lord Copper.

I was talking to someone today about SQL Developer and how we could build addins for it, when I realised I had a really keen idea for an extension that would make my life a lot easier. It's a rather obvious idea and I'm sure people out there are already working on it. But it seemed like a good excuse for me to reinvigorate my rusting Java skills. So I thought I would download JDeveloper and have a look at building the addin for myself.

I downloaded and installed the base version, fired up the Update Centre to get the Extension SDK, and ... nothing. Turns out the ESDK has a dependency on the J2EE version of JDeveloper, which is not documented in the Feature Matrix. For reference, that version (without JRE) is 181MB compared to the base install which weighs in at a Jodie Kidd-like 52MB. I'm sure there are very good reasons why the ESDK has to use some J2EE components but bloating out JDeveloper by an additional 300% just to look at the feasibility of building a SQL Developer addin seems a bit daft.

If there is a way to install the Extension SDK without downloading all this all stuff I would glad to hear of it. Otherwise I shall just have to wait until somebody else builds the addin for me.


Yes I do realise that the Mark Twain quote I am alluding to is "Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated." But I don't think I should change the title as it will break the URL in OraBlogs.

Update #2

In some late-breaking news it turns out that the dependency on J2EE resides not in the ESDK itself but in some of the examples. Apparently a crack team of JDev ninjas is working on separating the two types of examples even as you are reading this.

Monday, March 13, 2006

SQL Developer is now in production!

SQL Developer build 1467 is the Production 1.0 release. So that's just seven months after the first unveiling of the Raptor stealth project at OOW2K5SF. Obviously a lot of the foundation had been done under the JDeveloper project but it's still pretty good going.

I think Kris Rice and the rest of the team have delivered a very useful product. The key issue they face now is trying to meet the demands for additional functionality (I want to be able to specify a default directory for PL/SQL files and it would be helpful if we could use SQL Developer to edit Java Stored Procedures, although I suspect that's not a simple one to solve). Of course, this is a nice problem to have, much to be preferred over releasing applications to user indifference. Some cheeky blighter (alright, me) has posted a question on the forum asking for a roadmap of future releases, as they cannot maintain the recent flurry of EA releases.

The timing of the announcement is sweet, because tomorrow Oracle's very own Sue Harper will be doing a presentation on SQL Developer tomorrow in the DE SIG stream of the UKOUG Combined SIG. So I think that will be its first official outing, at least on this side of the pond.

Friday, March 10, 2006

My first Oracle WTF

Fame at last! Oracle WTF has accepted my first submission. This was a suggestion in an OTN forum thread on recovering passwords; the poster proposed amending the password verification function to store the username and password in a normal table. It takes a rare kind of mind to come up with ideas like that, subverting the password checker to ensure that every password is long, strong and known to everyone with SELECT ANY TABLE privilege.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Oracle neglects its tools?

CBR reports the outcome of a Evans Data survey of IDE usage (it looks like the actual survey results are only available to Evans Data's subscribers). The top IDE is MS Visual Studio followed by Eclipse. No surprises there. The most liked IDE is Rational Application Developer.

So where did the Oracle tool set come? Well, a lot of people are using Developer Suite, but:
Significantly, popularity did not necessarily translate to satisfied customers. Oracle had plenty of developers who ranked it at or near bottom in almost every category. Of course, it could be argued, the more developers, the more chance to have dissatisfied customers.

This is where it be nice to see a breakdown of the IDE users. CBR reports that "the study claims Oracle has neglected its tools" but that's not wholly fair. Oracle has been putting a lot of effort into its JDeveloper tool albeit to a large amount of indifference from the larger Java community and its existing Developer Suite customer base, if our experience at the UKOUG DE SIG is anything to go by. There is also Oracle Application Express (FKA HTMLDB) and SQL Developer (FKA Raptor) so recently there has been a lot of work within the Oracle Tools group.

What is true is there has not been much good news in the traditional areas: de-supporting client/server Forms alienated many customers and Oracle's treatment of its Designer tool has driven a fanatical set of users to starting developing their own modelling suite ("The Tool", based on Dulcian's BRIM product). So perhaps Evans Data just spoke to a lot of disgruntled Forms and Designer developers. Or a bunch of Java heads who resented having to use a proprietary tool instead of some cool amalgam of Eclipse, Hibernate and Spring.

Blatent plug: UKOUG members can find out more about what's happening in the Oracle Tools space by coming along to the DE SIG stream of the UKOUG Combined SIG day next week in Slough.