The Analogy

>OK, for the benefit of Niall.

The database is like a castle surrounded by a moat.

The instance is the drawbridge.

When the drawbridge is in place, you get easy access back and forth to the castle. That’s what it’s there for.

When you take the drawbridge out of position, you can still see the castle, you know it is still there, you just can’t reach it.

(I can’t believe I’ve just explained the concept of database and instance to an Oakie ;-))

I like analogies. I’ve always found it easier to ‘get’ a concept when I have a real world situation to liken it to. (But then again, I am a blonde!)

I use analogies a lot when trying to explain things to non-technical people, as well as Newbies.

What do I need to know? Part I

>I was asked to sit in on a 9i DBA course a couple of weeks ago.
The training was being given to some of the engineers from our support services provider (we outsource our network and infrastructure support).

I was asked along just to see how the training went, and to provide specifics about our systems if necessary.
I thought it would be a good idea also as the course was around 9i, which we are currently looking to upgrade to, so I might pick up a few tips!

It was a 3 day course, the first day of which concentrated on an introduction to SQL and using SQLPlus.
Out of the 4 delegates, only one had some database experience, using MS SQL Server, the others were complete Newbies.

On looking at creating tables, one delegate asked about the meaning of terms such as ‘initial’, ‘next’, and ‘pctfree’.
They were told simply – ‘you don’t need to know that just yet’.

Similarly, on asking the difference between a database and an instance, the given answer was ‘they are the same thing, you don’t need to worry about it’.

I’m not disputing the trainers decision to not go into a lot of detail.
On a 3 day course it isn’t always advisable, and too much detail can be overload for a Newbie!

So what does a Newbie need to worry about?

Newbies need to learn the basics to form a level of knowledge on which to build.

What has worked well for me the last few years, is to firstly try and gain a broad understanding of all areas of DBA work, without going into too much detail, and without trying to specialise.
I’ve also tended to learn on a ‘need to know’ basis.

Here’s what I would recommend as a starting point:

1) Learn the structure of an Oracle database.
Know the different ‘parts’ that make up a database, and what each of them does.
You should be able to note the difference between datafiles, controlfiles and redo log files.

2) Learn how the different parts work together.
Know the different processes that exist and what they do.
You should be able to explain what the log writer or database writers do. At this stage, it is enough to know what is done, rather than how it is done!

3) Learn the concepts of backup and recovery.
Know the difference between archivelog mode and noarchivelog mode, and what that means to the recovery process.
Understand hot backups and cold backups and when you would use each one.

Once you have a good grounding in the above areas, you will be able to build on your knowledge.
Knowing how things are supposed to work will also make it easier to troubleshoot when things don’t work.

In part II, I’ll look at how to build on the basics and where to go next.

How cool is this???

>I have to admit, I’m getting quite fond of the new sport of ‘Blog surfing’.

I like to follow links on Blogs I read, just to see where I end up.

Reading through the links on Robert Vollman’s blog what do I find?

I find a link to my Blog!!!

I then follow another link from Roberts blog, to that of an Oracle blog run byRadoslav Rusinov.

And what did I find???

A link to this blog!!

Cool! Very weird, but at the same time very cool.

Thanks for the publicity guys!

Newbie hints and tips

>Following an anonymous post requesting an elaboration on the hints given by Jeff Hunter, I have decided to dedicate this post to just that.

Here are Jeff’s comments in full, in an email response to my request for information…


“From the perspective of somebody who answers a lot of questions, I can give a newbie this advice:

1. State your problem clearly. On a forum I frequent you may get hit with a “Crystal ball broken today, please explain” if you don’t state your problem clearly.

2. Explain what you want to do. Please include sample data and any errors you encounter.

3. Do not be offended when someone asks you what the business justification is. You may be trying to do something stupid, and we’re just trying to figure out why.

4. Tell me what you’ve done already. Do you want me to assume you did a full backup before I tell you to drop a tablespace?

5. Please understand we do this for free. Sure, we learn how to solve problems in the process, but you get more out of this than we do.
Getting upset with me just puts you on my ignore list.

6. I don’t care if your problem is URGENT!! to you. In fact, if you mark your message URGENT!!! I will probably ignore it. You DO have support, right?

7. No, I won’t give you my CSI so you can create a metalink account. “

Pretty much common sense, right?

If you are a Newbie, you will do well to take note of this advice.

If you want people to help you, then you have to learn how to help yourself first.

I’m collating a list like this of all comments made by ‘seasoned veterans’ on how to be a good Newbie. It will appear in my presentation and I will continue to post comments here.

An Apology…

Ok, Ok, I’m still here, still breathing (just!)

Been offline a bit lately, I’ve been working on my final paper for my BSc in Computing and needed to make sure i got it right!

I’m off now to work on the next post, but thought I’d best check in first.

I’ve had quite a few people ask if I’m still blogging (yes, Tom, that includes you!), I hadn’t realised I’d left it so long.

Where does the time go?

Watch this space…update very shortly!

How to be a good Newbie

>What constitutes a ‘good’ Newbie?

One of the things I’ve been looking at lately is how Newbies are treated out there in the big, bad world of DBA’s, particularly in forums and discussion groups.
Some forums and individuals are quite tolerant of Newbies and aim to be helpful, others are just downright hostile.

RTFM seems to be the stock answer of choice these days, with the Newbie often left thinking ‘which FM are they talking about!’
A previous post on Tom Kyte’s blog talks about this in depth.

What I’d like to know is, what do the ‘elders’ in the community expect from Newbies?

What would make you more enthused to help out?

I received an email from Jeff Hunter outlining the ways in which he believed Newbies could raise their profile.
It was very helpful, and with hindsight, most of it is common sense.

These forums are a free service, nobody is obliged to answer a post.
Newbies should also not forget that many of the people responding are at work themselves, so they don’t appreciate being asked to do someone else’s job for them.

Newbies are more likely to get a helpful response if they can prove they have done some thinking for themselves.
Sending a post saying “I have a problem, X, I have tried solutions Y and Z, but I still have a problem, what can I try next” is more likely to get a response than “It’s broken tell me how to fix it”.

What suggestions do you have?

The Rehearsal

>Registration is now open for the UKOUG Unix SIG meeting to be held on 13th September in Slough, UK.

My Newbie presentation is on the agenda.

It’ll be a good opportunity for me to practice before the conference in November and to make sure I have the content right.

Anybody that is planning on attending, feedback would be appreciated!

The Little Guys

>Following the comment posted by Harry I wanted to broaden this out a little.
I started in my first DBA role 3 years ago. The production finance system was Oracle Financials 10.7 CUI running on Oracle 7.3.4 on a DG/UX Aviion server.The company is still running that configuration today.

Now, I’m working in an IT team of 5 people.We have 2 production systems with third party applications on 8.1.7.0 SE on Windows 2000.To class either of these systems as ‘busy’ I’d need to reach 10 concurrent users. Seriously.

The databases were installed about 18 months before I joined the company. They were put in by the third party applications vendor, just a standard install accepting all the defaults.
As the systems are not 24×7, nor are they heavily used at the moment, there isn’t much of a requirement for me to intervene.There were a few little tasks for me to do initially, such as changing default passwords and multiplexing controlfiles and redo logs, but at the moment, I just have to keep an eye on them and let them tick over.Our production finance system is about 25GB in size, the project system is at 5GB.

As you can probably imagine, being a DBA is not my only job function here. I’m currently rewriting our Security Policy and leading various projects including looking at change control, housekeeping and disaster recovery.
I try and keep in with Oracle stuff as much as I can, through papers, books, websites etc, but it can be difficult to find the time with so many other responsibilities.
I know of DBA’s who have allocated reading and research time during the working day, I’m still trying to convince people that sitting at my desk reading, or browsing the internet is not ‘wasting my time’.

There are so many things I want to do with the databases, but the general consensus here is that they are working fine and ‘don’t need played with’.
Things I need to do include patching from 8.1.7.0.0 to at least 8.1.7.4 and trying to build in some resilience.

My next big task is the business has announced it wants to upgrade to the next version of one of the applications. The new app is not, however, supported on 8i.
So I’ll just have to upgrade the database to 9i.
I’d never done an install or upgrade before – I just did the test system a couple of months ago – but as one of my colleagues pointed out ‘you get a CD, it can’t be that hard’.

So to answer Harry, I won’t forget about the little guys using SE, because I am one of them.

Are there any more of us out there?

My Journey

>Since I started this blog a couple of days ago and made my initial request for informtaion, the reponses have been flooding in!
There’s been a wide range of comments, both from other Newbies and from seasoned pros.
I’ll be incorporating them into my presentation and will also post some of them here, as I believe they are of great benefit and need to be shared.

I’ve also had some stories on how people became DBA’s, it’s interesting to hear how many of them arrived in the role by accident!

I thought I’d share my story, it might explain why I still consider myself a Newbie!

I started out as an end-user of the Oracle Financials application at a large Housing Association. I was actually a temp hired for data entry, I was 20 years old, had just returned from working abroad and was desperate for a job!

I was one of these people that liked to ‘play’ when I thought nobody was looking. So I’d randomly push buttons and do things differently, just to see what happened!
It seemed natural then, that after about a year, I was seconded down to the IT section on a one year contract to assist in the project to upgrade the Financials app.
I got to play around with configuring the app, setting it up and learning some business analysis skills in the process.

After go-live I was offered a permanant job in IT, providing a second line support service to the application. As was usual with me, I kept fiddling and was curious to learn more.
By this time my Boss was practically having a nervous breakdown over me, but he was very supportive and encouraging.

He persuaded me to take up the Company’s offer of training and I signed up to do a part time degree in Computer Science. It meant night classes and lots of work, but I wanted to learn. (I graduate this year by the way!)

After about a year as a support analyst I started getting more curious about how everything worked together, I asked a lot of questions (and probably annoyed a heck of a lot of people!) of the unix SA and the DBA. Both were nice people and willing to give me time.

Then the UNIX SA quit, his responsibilities were handed over to the DBA until a replacement could be found.
Then the DBA quit.

And that is how I ended up as a UNIX SA and Oracle DBA!

I covered both roles and it really was a baptism by fire learning experience. In all honesty, the way I learned was generally by doing things wrong and then learning how to put them right! The company took a big gamble on me taking over, but it was done on a temporary basis initially. I carried out the roles for 6 months before the job was officially mine.

I had no formal training before I started the role, and I was the only SA/DBA in the company so I had nobody to teach me or to help me out. They did bring in a contract DBA for an upgrade and he became my mentor over the next 2 years.

I’ve since moved on from that company, but I’m also the only DBA in my current place of employment.

I’m getting there eventually but I still feel I have a long way to go and a lot to learn.

The beginning

>Well, here I am!
I’ve decided to create my own blog as a result of the tremendous feedback I received from my public request for information on Tom Kyte’s blog and the subsequent posting on Niall Litchfield’s blog.

Basically, I’m giving a presentation at this years UKOUG conference based on the world of Oracle through the eyes of ‘Newbies’.

I decided to do this presentation after attending last years conference and noting that there wasn’t much material for the beginner.
I’m not looking to provide a means of teaching people about Oracle, rather I’m wanting to show people how and where to learn and how to get ahead.

I’ll be posting a little bit about myself and my experiences, and inviting others to do the same.
This has started out as research for my presentation, but we’ll see how far it goes!

Too kick it off, I want to say a public ‘Thank You’ to all who have contributed so far.

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