Presenting at UKOUG Tech13 Conference

It’s been a while since I put anything on this blog, most likely down to a combination of being overly busy in my previous life at UKOUG and not having anything to say that couldn’t be said in 140 characters.

Anyway, I’ll be at the UKOUG Tech13 Conference in Manchester next week and to say I’m hyper about it would be a little bit of an understatement.

I’m really looking forward to getting a different conference experience this year.  I’m certainly a lot more relaxed in the run up to it than I have ever been and a new city and venue to explore adds to the excitement.

I was really pleased to be offered a speaker slot for the conference, and my presentation will be on Wednesday morning, 8:30am in the Exchange Auditorium.

‘RMAN Duplicate – When Clones Attack’  is my story of a 3 day , urm, ‘adventure’ into using RMAN Duplicate to create a clone copy of a production system.

It’s something that we have done many times before and for some of our systems it’s a regular, scripted task to refresh our test systems.

Normally I’d bang on about how great I think it is but earlier this year we had one such attempt turn into a complete catalogue of errors.

It was a nightmare.

We got there in the end but not before we’d encountered bugs, system errors, human errors and even a ridiculous blonde error! Oh, and not forgetting the impossible recovery scenario – so glad we hit that one in a clone and not a production recovery scenario!

Once we got through it, it was obvious it needed to be turned into a presentation if only to help prevent even one person going through the same pain.

So I’ll be there, bright and early and raring to share my story, I hope to see a few of you come along.

From Oracle Newbie to Oracle ACE…

When I started this blog over 5 years ago, I never imagined that it would take me on a journey from an Oracle Newbie, to a Director of UKOUG and onto an Oracle ACE (even if I did go via some strange evenings in some strange pubs in Birmingham and a rather dodgy Panto!)

All I can say is that it has been a heck of a ride!

I’ve enjoyed every minute of it and for me, the best part of it has been the friendships that have been made along the way.

To each and every one of you that has supported and encouraged me along the way, I thank you.

And a big thank you to OTN and the ACE Program for the award and a special thank you to the person who nominated me as an Oracle ACE (they know who they are).

Log Buffer #132: a Carnival of the Vanities for DBAs

>Welcome to the 132nd edition of Log Buffer, the weekly review of database blogs.

This is my first post of this New Year, so let’s kick it off with a new blog.

Joel Goodman has begun his Blog from the DBA Classroom. This week he has been discussing the different ASM Storage Possibilities, but make sure to check out his older posts too if you missed them. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on this blog.

Keeping on the education theme here, Dan Norris has a few thoughts on his blog regarding certifications.
I think the subject of certifications will always divide opinion, but something that did interest me here was the comment from a Senior Exec of a certification company, who informed Dan that ” Their certification enrollments are approaching record levels due to the economic “downturn” “

Keeping with the economy, but switching technologies, Kevin Kline over at the SQL Blog is asking ‘Does the down economy have an impact on your job?’. Rather than talking about IT layoffs though, he’s asking if DBAs are struggling to justify attendance at Conferences and User Group meetings and talks about the potential knock-on effects of such cut-backs. Interesting stuff.

OK, enough doom and gloom, let’s go and find some happy posts.

Zack Urlocker at TheOpenForce has been celebrating the first anniversary of Sun acquiring MySQL.
They had beer.
At work.
I like their style!

Further anniversary news from H.Tonguç Yılmaz as The Turkish Oracle Users Group Forum prepares for it’s 10th Anniversary with a whole host of new blogs

More good news as Harald van Breederode tells us it is possible to recall command line history in tools such as SQL*Plus.

Rhonda Tipton also shares a handy trick for SQL Server users on how to easily convert date formats from one style to another, I’m sure all of us have been caught out by the US/UK date thing at one time or another!

PostgreSQL Users also have something to look forward to with Xaprb talking about the new windowing functions and common table expressions coming up in the next release.

Back to Oracle now, and a post from Pythian’s Lukas Vysusil. I have to admit, I found his ‘Hitting Oracle with a Hammer’ title a bit misleading, especially as he kicks off with “Recently, I had an opportunity to participate in a stress-testing exercise”.
I thought ‘Yeah, when I get stressed I could whack Oracle with a Hammer too”. Typically, my misinterpretation was way off the mark. No gratuitous violence, just a great post about, well, stress-testing.

Speaking of misinterpretations, I’m going to finish this week’s log buffer with something for you to think about. Justin Kestelyn over at the OTN Blog asks ‘What does “Freedom of Speech” mean in the Context of Community?’

A word of caution

>It’s a fact of life that there are certain subjects on which people will disagree.

Whether it’s about politics, religion or which football team to support, there will always be someone who has a different opinion to yours.

This is also true with technology: do you use a Windows platform or Unix, a PC or a Mac, the list goes on and on.

It’s exactly the same in the Oracle world.
People will disagree and there can sometimes be conflicting opinions out there.
-Do you need RAC,
-Do you need DataGuard,
-What is the best approach for performance tuning?

These are all subjects where there are people on different sides, and they have all been the subject of presentations at various different venues and events.

A difference in opinion, and a healthy debate is normal.
It helps you make a more informed judgement if you are exposed to both sides of the debate.

What isn’t healthy however, is when an opinion is based on an incorrect fact.

It’s also a fact of life that there are occasions where people make mistakes, or are mis-informed, and their opinion can therefore be dangerous as it is based on incorrect facts.

As Newbies, you need to be aware of the different, and sometimes conflicting opinions out there, in order to make sure that the advice you are following is appropriate to you and your circumstances.

This post is not about telling you what is right and what is wrong, it’s about showing you how to make that distinction for yourself.

So here’s some advice:

Widen your reading material
Don’t just stick with one website, or one book or one author – take in a wide variety of sources to get a different perspective.

Do your research
If you’re unsure of something you have read, do some further research on the subject.

Test things out for yourself
If you come across different sources that give conflicting advice, test things out for yourself. It’s the only way you can be sure of what is correct.

Beware of search engines
Although there may be many occasions where search engines are your friend, there is no guarantee of the quality of the results shown. The advice may be out of date, or not relevant to your particular set up or circumstances.

‘Try before you buy’
If someone suggests that the answer to your problem is to run script ‘xyz’ or type command ‘abc’, don’t automatically run it through production.
Read through the script and make sure you understand what it is doing. Look up the command if you aren’t sure what it will do.
Your job will not be saved by saying ‘but Mr X told me to do it!’.
That may sound like simple common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people have been caught out by blind trust.

Check that it is relevant
When asking for help, or researching an issue, make sure you clarify the details. Advice on how to solve an issue in 10g may not work if you are running 9i. Different versions can have different fixes with a range of results.

While the above may all seem like common sense, you will do well to remember it.
Don’t assume that just because you’ve seen something it print, or been told it, that it’s correct.

It will be your job on the line if it all goes horribly wrong.

Log Buffer #36: a Carnival of the Vanities for DBA’s

>Welcome to this weeks edition of Log Buffer!

First up, on the IT toolbox, we have Willie asking ‘Did you survive the daylight savings time change?’ He seems to have come out of it unscathed, so I hope everybody else did too!

Next we have a couple of reviews as Doug Burns provides an excellent ‘Hotsos Wrap Up’ giving his highs and lows of attending the event.

Over on RadioFreeTooting, Andrew Clarke gives us a review of the recent UKOUG combined SIG, with a summary of the presentations he attended.

To move away from looking back at events, it’s time to look forward and welcome a couple of new additions.
Firstly, we have RittmanMead Consulting, the new link for Mark Rittman’s blog.

Secondly, I see via Kevin Closson that Greg Rahn has started a new blog – Structured Data.

Kevin has also posted a good article on Multiple Buffer Pools.

For MySql users, over on Robin’s Blog there is a DBA’s guide to the MySQL Users Conference. It’s there to help DBA’s maximise their time at the conference and make sure they attend the presentations that are most relevant to them.

Back to the Oracle word now, where Dan Fink wants to know What do you want to see on a Statspack report’. Leave a comment on his OptimalDBA blog where he will be collating the results.

In DBAZine, Chris Foot has updated his Oracle 10g Blog with the latest instalment of Oracle Access Path Scientific Analysis. It’s a good read and includes many links to his previous post on SQL performance.

Next up we have some fellow female bloggers.
Beth Breidenbach, aka DataGeekGal with a Spring Audit Reminder.

On to SQL Server now, and Kathi Kellenberger has posted on her sqlserver central blog about a couple of upcoming learning opportunities for SQL Server DBA’s.

In keeping with the learning theme, Susan Visser has posted on the IBM DeveloperWorks blog and provided links to some really useful resources for DBA’s needing to work with multiple database products.

Moving onto a ‘size’ issue, we now have Pete Scott asking ‘So what do you call large databases?’ Answers on a postcard please.

One article that really caught my eye this morning, (and nothing to do with me hosting this weeks Log buffer!), is Julien Lamarche’s entry on the Pythian Blog where he shares his Tips for the new DBA.

Sadly, no songs this week, but one post that made me smile, even if it shouldn’t, was Eddie Awad’s ’10 things about Computer Programming you may not agree with’.

As Eddie himself points out, if you’re not happy with these statements, then maybe you should become a DBA, as Tim at Eye on Oracle reports that Database Administration is one of the fastest growing jobs.

I’ll leave you with some nice imagery now as you move to Antoni Wolski’s blog and picture ‘The Little Tree Inside’ – a small ‘Bonsai Tree’ that will grow in your computer’s memory, courtesy of Solid’s storage engine for MySql.

Happy reading!

Log Buffer #20: a Carnival of the Vanities for DBA’s

>Welcome to the 20th edition of Log Buffer!

Like me, it appears that there are still a few bloggers out there trying to get back to normal after the UKOUG conference, yet there have still been a lot of posts to get through this week.

Mark Rittman in particular has had to do more ‘recovering’ than others, and we’re not just talking about a lack of sleep!
Luckily, his appeal for a ‘Distributed Recovery’ seems to have worked and people have rallied round to help him out.

As a result, Peter Scott has commented on ‘A sense of Community’, a post about how the blogging network, and the Oracle community as a whole, is a very supportive place to be.

In addition to helping out, there is also a great social element to this community. Judging by some of the photos that Doug Burns has linked to I think there are some people who would have preferred it if cameras had been banned from the event!

If anybody missed the UKOUG conference, then Piet de Visser has a great summary post of the event.

Going back to Doug Burns for a moment, on his UKOUG – Day 4 review he also posts about a strange issue with Oracle licensing around AWR in 10.2. This was talked about a lot at the conference and was also picked up by Jonathan Lewis on his AWR Dilemma post.
It seems that if you’re not licensed to run AWR, then you can quite easily disable it by running a simple procedure call. However, you can’t run the package unless you are licensed to run AWR.
It reminds me of the time in my Java Programming 101 class where I created a loop that wouldn’t end…..

Moving away from the UKOUG conference, it looks like Tom Kyte has been doing some interesting travelling (again!). He left the conference early and has been out and about in Rome. He has some great photos, although it sounds like some of his seminar material may have been lost in translation!

A couple of ITToolbox articles have also caught my eye this week.
The first one is a Confession of an IT Hitman on ‘How to Use Oracle (19) – Intro to indexes’. It’s a good article on how SQL performance tuning is not just about creating as many indexes as possible.

The second article is by Chris Eaton of An Expert’s Guide to DB2 Technology on the MERGE statement, something I learned about on a recent Oracle Warehouse Builder project.

Over on the PostgreSQL Planet blog, we have Robert Treat talking about why usability matters. Since reading it, I’ve discovered that I don’t have any problems with the light switches in my house, however the locations of the plug sockets on the walls leaves a lot to be desired!

Speaking of plugs, Eddie Awad has a useful post on using Oracle search plug-ins (See how I did that?!) Eddie shows how you can install search plugins in either IE7 or Firefox 2 and also how to use Oracle custom search engines powered by Google.

For the MySQL users, on Arjen Lentz’s Blog, there is a call for papers for the MySQL Miniconf 2007 in Sydney, Australia.

Mike Kruckenburg also has a couple of posts on his blog about MySQL. The first is how to use MySQL to generate bar graphs, and the second is on his MySQL Cluster set-up.

If security is your area of interest, then make sure you take a look at Pete Finnigan’s website. This week he expresses some concerns in his post on the intended 0-day exploit for Oracle bugs, a story which is also picked up by Chris Eaton.

For a different viewpoint, go back to the PostgreSQL Planet blog. Here, Magnus Hagander has an Interesting analysis of db security.

On a congratulatory note, I see that Lutz Hartmann has been nominated to receive the Oracle Ace award.

In DBAzine, there are two articles that stand out.
Firstly, Craig Mullins claims that DBA’s out-earn other IT staff positions which is always good to hear!

Secondly, Chris Foot continues his System Triage theme with the first part in the series on Access Path Identification. A detailed article and well worth a read.

And finally, I’ll end with links to two posts, both of which stand out for their entertainment value, rather than technical content!

We all know that Mogens Norgaard is not a man to shy away from controversy.
If you’re sitting comfortably then I suggest you read his latest post in which he recounts Kurt Van Meerbeeck’s presentation story of how the CIA stole Oracle from the Russians and why you should beware of Jonathan Lewis!

Once you’ve done that, then click on over to see Steve Karam, the Oracle Alchemist.
This post will provide you with the lyrics you need to give a rousing rendition of a DBA’s take on a classic Don McLean Song.
Let me know how many of you are still singing it on Monday morning!!

Well, that’s it for this weeks edition of Log Buffer!

Good News!

Today I passed my OCA exam, the first step to getting my Oracle 10g OCP Certification.

I have to admit to being quite nervous before taking the exam, after my grumblings last week I was worried that there was just too much to take in and I wouldn’t remember it all.

In the end though, I did just fine.

It’s actually surprising how much you take in without realising it – once I’d calmed down a bit and focused on the questions, it all just started coming back.

I think a lot of this may be down to the way that I prepared for the exam.
I tried to spread out the studying over a period of time, rather than trying to cram at the last minute.
As there are some topics that require a quite detailed understanding, I found that studying little and often was the best approach for me.

As some of the other Consultants at SolstonePlus are about to start studying for the exams, Mark has asked that I jot down a few notes to help the others with their studying.
Once I’ve done that I’ll post it here.

One thing I will say to anybody who is thinking of going for the certification is that you have to be prepared to put the work in.
Studying for the exam has taken over my life for the last week.
In my opinion, it really isn’t enough to skim through the text book the night before, or to just download and attempt the practice exams.

Again, I’m not wanting to spark up the ‘to OCP or not to OCP’ discussion, but I think it all boils down to why you are doing the exams.

My motivation wasn’t just so that I could say I was an Oracle Certified Professional, or to be able to use the logo on my CV to impress people, but rather to strengthen the Oracle skills I already had.

In that respect, studying for, and taking the exam has done just that.

I have only been working with the 10g release for a couple of months now and, as I’ve mentioned before, my previous Oracle experience has been limited to small scale systems.

I now feel a lot more confident in my knowledge and abilities and have filled a lot of the gaps where there were things I felt I really should know.

All in all, whatever your personal views are on the OCP track, I’m quite proud of myself as I feel I have achieved something.

The Newbie tag is gone for good!

End of Radio Silence

Well I’m back from a two week holiday in Cozumel and have finally managed to catch up on all my emails and work related stuff.

The holiday was good, lots of diving and relaxing in the sun, but coming back wasn’t so nice. For the first few days home I had serious jetlag and a rather nasty ear infection.

Luckily, I have been working from home this week, I’m on study leave as I’m preparing for my first 10g OCP exam, so being wide awake and working at 4am isn’t a problem!

In order to prepare for the exam I’ve been using the OCP Certification All-in-One Exam Guide from Oracle Press.
I can highly recommend this book to anyone who is going to do the OCP track.
It comes with a free CD with sample questions, the chapters are well organised and easy to read and there are exercises and practise questions at the end of each chapter.

I started by taking one of the practice exams from the CD first, and working out which areas I obviously needed to work on.
Then, I read up on that chapter and attempted to answer the questions at the end.

Once I’ve worked through all of the areas I need to, I intend going back and re-doing the practice exam.

One of the things I have personally found quite annoying with the exam, is the number of questions that either require exact syntax or include case sensitivity in order to get correct the answer.

An example is this question:

You are installing Oracle Database 10g on a computer with the Red Hat Enterprise Linux ES 4 operating system. You are certain that the Oracle Universal Installer system check will fail on this operating system, but you want to install Oracle anyway. How would you invoke the OUI and force it not to perform system checks? (Choose the best answer)

A. setup -ignorePreReqs
B. setup -ignorePrereqs
C. runInstaller -ignoreSysPrereqs
D. runInstaller -ignoreSysprereqs
E. runInstaller -bypassPrereqs
F. setup -bypassPrereqs

I knew it was either C or D, in terms of the words needed, but I couldn’t remember the case used. I managed to select the correct answer, C, more by chance than actually knowing it.
And what’s all this about choosing the ‘best’ answer? How does the ‘best’ answer differ from the ‘correct’ answer?

For the number of times a DBA will be required to issue this statement, is it really necessary to know it off by heart? Is it not more likely that you’ll have a rough idea, but will look it up?
Maybe the test should be ‘Where would you go to find out this information?’

Most DBA’s I know have a pile of books either on the end of their desks or on a nearby bookshelf for those occasions where you sort of know the answer, maybe haven’t done it for a while, and need to look it up.

I find this true, especially when writing SQL statements and I need to use a function I haven’t used in a while and I can’t remember the exact syntax.

I understand that there are occasions where you need to get the syntax exact, otherwise Oracle will do something entirely different to what you wanted and this can sometimes be dangerous. However, on most occasions it will simply return an error, usually some random error message that has nothing to do with the problem!

Anyway that’s enough grumbling from me, I now need to go and memorise lines of syntax from the book so that I can pass the exam. I’ll be sure to blog about this again in 6 months time when I actually go to use some of these commands, but can’t quite remember them so have to go and look them up.

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