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Help Yourself

When people ask for help on (for example) OTN, they are often asked to supply further information – sometimes in the form of requests for results from SQL queries. If you are ever in this position, you may find that you don’t understand what the query does, or why the information is useful – nevertheless you can still do something to make it as easy as possible for your potential saviour to help you.

Here’s an example to show you how NOT to do it:
Request for information: “Please format the contents of v$sga_dynamic_components.”


I thought it was pretty cold in Sarajevo a couple of weeks ago, and therefore fairly mild in Minneapolis and Denver when the temperature was only just around freezing point – but after reading this report I don’t think I’m every going to say anything more about cold weather.

(Note: with my scientific/skeptic hat on, I have yet to be convinced that the story is completely true – there is one obvious weak point.)


Planet Earth

I know it’s another post that’s not about Oracle, but someone sent me this video link a couple of days ago and it’s too wonderful not to share. (I’ve just got back from Iceland, so the Aurora Borealis at 1:05 is particularly relevant)

Big Numbers

It’s hard, sometimes, to get an instinctive idea of how big a “big number” really is. I’ve just heard a brilliant description of a billion (American style: 109) that really gives you a gut feeling for how big the number is:

If you owed someone a billion dollars, and paid it back at the rate of $1 per second – how long would it take to pay off the debt (and don’t even think about the interest accruing) ?

The answer is 34 years.

The way I read it, that turns a big number into a number that’s small enough to comprehend but big to feel enormous.


Here’s a link to a truly ambitious document on Metalink (if you’re allowed to log on):

Doc ID 421191.1: Complete checklist for manual upgrades of Oracle databases from any version to any version on any platform

(Actually it only starts at v6 – but I don’t think there are many systems still running v5 and earlier).


How to ensure that you never give the wrong answer – as demonstrated by my bank’s telephone help system:

Stage 1 – after calling in through a special high-cost number, of course:

“{long message extolling the virtues of using the bank’s internet system for all your requirements}”

Stage 2 – you wait for the list of options to be recited

“Press 1 for …”
“Press 2 for …”

“Press 9 to speak to a member of the helpdesk”

Stage 3 – you decide the only relevant option is to press 9 to speak to a person:

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you want.” click, brrrrrrrrrrrrr …

Maxim: If you don’t want to fail, don’t even try.


… (or “Fall” for speakers of American) has arrived in the UK – and once again I am reminded how gardening and trouble-shooting are just two aspects of the same problem.

I have several trees in and around my garden, including two rather large Oak trees, and at this time of year it takes a couple of hours at the weekend to rake up the fallen leaves. The comparison with solving performance problems is obvious:

Every Saturday, I look at the leaves on the ground and the leaves still on the trees and quite often manage to persuade myself that there’s no point in doing anything just yet.

On the Saturdays when I decide that I really do have to rake up the leaves I aim to clear about 99% of the problem – there’s no point in clearing to 100% because if I go for perfection it’s only going to last a couple of minutes before more leaves start coming down or blowing in. Of course, after I’ve spent ages clearing 99% of the mess, my wife (the end user) is quite likely to say: “you haven’t finished yet”

After I’ve done a really good job raking up enough leaves I look up at the trees and know that all those leaves are going to be heading my way and I’m probably going to have to do it all over again next week, and there’s nothing appropriate that I can do to stop it happening.



I’ve been on holiday for the last few days – the last few posts were dated to publish themselves in my absence – and got home last night. First thing I did, of course, was to download my email … second thing the machine did was to declare an automatic software update and destroy the [...]

Don’t Knows

One of the biggest problems in learning is that you don’t know how much you don’t know, and this reises two questions: how do you find out that there are huge gaps in your knowledge that need to be filled ? how do you know whether or not the material you’re learning from is any [...]