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March 2011

I almost forgot

Just to annoy those who wonder why on earth I do this. I should point out (and keep pointing out) that

Disclosure: I'm attending this year's Hotsos Symposium with the help of the Oracle ACE Director program, which is paying my
travel and accommodation expenses. The time off work is at my own expense.

I am Number 4…

I get the feeling that I am Number 4 is trying to target prepubescent boys, the same way Twilight (how I hate that film) has captured the imagination of every young person with ovaries. The big difference is that prepubescent boys like to see things get shot and blown up. As a result, it’s much more palatable to an adult male than the tripe they keep serving up in the Twilight Saga. Gosh that film is bad…

I.a.N.4 has its fair share of teenage angst and everyone is Hollywood pretty, but it didn’t make me vomit and it didn’t have glittering vampires. How I hate glittering vampires…

So if you go in cold, I.a.N.4 is kinda meh. If you cleanse your palate first by watching any Twilight (what a completely awful set of movies) film, you will think I.a.N.4 is awesome and deserves a giant bag of Oscars.




or the Oracle support interface formerly known as Metalink.

In case you haven’t come across it, or if you’ve lost the URL, there is an HTML interface which, on the downside, doesn’t offer all the features but, on the upside, does seem to be a little more robust and a little faster. (I’ve added links to both the flash and html versions in my blogroll.)

Symposium 2011 - Day 0

It's a tough gig blogging from a conference, particularly this side of a presentation that I'm still (cough) polishing the slides for, but I can't bitch about Twitter decimating the blogging community without occasionally putting the slightest effort into redressing the balance.

After a long trip on Saturday (my solitary concession to Twitter - bitching about travel) I landed in the hotel bar and met the first of the many old friends I'm going to meet this week. Lest this seem like the opportunity for a name-dropping bonanza, I'm going to try to avoid specific names, but there were a variety of Marks there (if I include Marco) and Jacco, who was an unexpected surprise.

I've been upgraded to a suite and although it's a non-smoking one, I simply don't have the heart to ruin things for this lot by going ahead with the promised move.

They had a worse trip in the cargo hold, so it's the least I can do. (I can only imagine the reaction at the turn-down service when they'd carefully drawn the net curtains behind them! I can just imagine the little voices - "Behind us please, otherwise we can't see out ....")

Despite all my best efforts to ensure that this time, really, honestly I *will* have my slides done before the conference, I was there yesterday morning, polishing away and was really disappointed when my 2 hour afternoon nap turned into a 4 hour one finishing just in time for registration. I suppose I needed it, having had little sleep for days.

Walking around the hotel, registration and (yes) the bar, it occurred to me that of all the conferences I attend, this one feels most like a family outing. Again, that could be seen as a case of seeing the same old faces, my famous mates and so on, but in this case, I recognise about a third of the people milling around the hotel, attendees from past conferences and absolutely nothing to do with Oracle Corp, the Oak Table network or user group folk. This is just a bunch of people who (importantly) are all into the same stuff - Oracle performance-related - and come back year after year for more of the same. Add in the fact that we're all stuck in a single venue for presentations, meals, beers and all, it makes for a very intimate atmosphere conducive to informal conversations.

Those damn slides - I can not get them out of my mind and I won't be able to relax until about 11am tomorrow, when I'm done. I've simply bitten off more than I can chew and now that I'm at the 80 slide mark with more to be added, I have a couple of options

1) Drop some subjects and focus on a few properly.

2) Try to emulate Connor McDonald and talk my way convincingly and understandably through the slides at a rate of approximately 150 miles per hour. (If you've ever seen Connor present, you know how difficult that would be to emulate.)

I suspect I'll go for option 1 and, as I was saying to a few friends last night, I rarely go for the level of depth that will impress 3 people in the audience, but the level that will be of most value to most people.

Then, and this is outrageous but relevant name-dropping, just as I finished that very conversation, Tom Kyte walked up, said hello and pointed out that his closing presentation will be on things he's (re)-learned during the conference so that I'd better be able to teach him something new or something like that.

No pressure, then :-(

Damn, I hate the fact that I'm going to have to miss some things later to catch up but obviously I don't hate it enough or I wouldn't keep letting it happen.

Disclosure: I'm attending this year's Hotsos Symposium with the help
of the Oracle ACE Director program, which is paying my
travel and accommodation expenses. The time off work is at my own

Curiouser and Curiouser

It looks like England are going out of their way to make this World Cup interesting, but following them maddening. That ridiculously laboured effort in Nagpur followed by a stunning tie against one of the best two sides in the world before succumbing extremely poorly to the excellent Irish. Yesterday what do we get, a [...]


Just a quick note (because as a smartphone user this sort of thing bothers me a *lot*) to point out that today’s XKCD has an excellent example of how if you are going to anticipate your application’s client requests in some form of intelligent response, you really need to get it right so as not [...]

Public Appearances

Here is a short summary of my forthcoming public appearances:

  • 7th April: I'll be doing a one-day seminar in Switzerland on performance troubleshooting. This is loosely based on the Chapters 8 and 9 of the "Expert Oracle Practices" book that I have co-authored. If you want to get an idea of some of the details covered you can have a look at the material of my corresponding presentation. Of course the seminar will go much deeper than the presentation, since we'll spend a whole day on troubleshooting. This is being organized by Oracle University as part of their "Celebrity Seminar" program. You can find the details and booking options here.

Free ASH

If you’re running a version of Oracle older than 10g (where v$active_session_history appeared), or if you’re not using Enterprise Edition, or if you just don’t want to pay for the Diagnostic Pack licence, here are some links relating a free Java program that emulates the “Top Sessions” output of the Enterprise Manager screen:

Important Note:

If you want to query v$active_session_history (or any of the AWR objects) then you need to purchase the licence for the Diagnostic Pack). If you aren’t licensed you should only use the program in emulation mode.

Oracle Database Time Model Viewer in Excel 4

March 6, 2011 (Updated March 15, 2011) (Back to the Previous Post in the Series) (Forward to the Next Post in the Series) In the previous three parts of this series we started building an Oracle Database time model statistics viewer using nothing more than Microsoft Excel.  The end result will hopefully duplicate some of the functionality that [...]

Bare Metal Programming

I used to get a kick out of the recollections of the slightly older guy I worked with (Rob Weinberg). He used to tell me about programming on a system where they didn’t even have a keyboard. As he explained it, the computer was programmed by flipping switches for each bit and pushing a button to store assembly instructions. This would be done repetitively until all the instructions were entered into the computer and then the “program” could be run. I thought that was really funny having started with 4GL programming. Well I ran across a couple of videos on youtube of a guy programming a Dec PDP computer which was the machine that was in use just before I started my career on Dec Vaxen. And the videos show how it was done. (you younger guys might want to sit down before you watch this, I don’t want anyone to get dizzy and hurt themselves)

The switches allowed assembly language to be input (looks like 4 – 3 bit characters to me). They also had the ability to read programs off of paper tapes as long as you could enter the program to read the tape. Here’s a guy doing just that.

If you want to see what a variac is, have a look at this one:

It’s basically a power conditioner. I’m not sure why they needed that. I have seen people use them with guitar amps which can be sensitive (from a sound perspective) to low voltage or variable voltage.

Anyway, I thought the videos were entertaining.