07 June 2006

Storing Images in the Database, the Scottish User Group and Mod PL/SQL

Yesterday I had an earlier than usual start. I was off to Scotland for the Scottish User Group SIG and had planned to fly up and back in the day. This is easy. The early bit is because I have a mutt (said mutt) and I take him for a walk every day, rain or snow. I am also pretty determined not to short change him, so yesterday we did our regular 50 mins starting at 5am. Now I realise for many of you that this is not a big deal, but it's earlier than my regular start. It was incredibly beautiful out and I'd recommend it to you all. But I digress - the Scottish OUG...

This was my first venture up to North for a SIG, and I was very impressed. They ran two streams, BI and Development, and had a nice attendance. The only snag was the very fine weather. When it's that good, the attendance can peter off as the day progresses. If you live in one of those places in the world where every day provides clear blue skies, you might have no understanding of this. But if you come from a spot where recognising the sun is not always easy, then you'll know what I mean!

I was impressed by the both the variety of talks, the variety of topics covered and that they weren't all Oracle presenters. More recently, Oracle speakers have dominated the SIGs I have attended. As these are Oracle USER Groups, I find it refreshing to hear user experiences and input. When I pointed this out to Thomas Presslie, one of the SIG chairs, he said it was actually unusual to have as many as 2 Oracle presenters at one event, as he avoids this as a rule. Grant Ronald spoke about JDeveloper and ADF and I did a SQL Developer

One of the more refreshing talks I'd been to in a while was by Marcel Kratochvil, from Australia. He is in Scotland doing some work locally and Thomas persuaded him to come along. He works for Piction in Australia. Marcel doesn't have a blog, but there is this article on OTN about storing images on the database. Their area is multimedia and they help companies with content and managing their digital resources. They use Oracle, mod_pl/sql and hence PL/SQL, because it's fast, scalable (up and down...) and he can use the power of the Oracle database. He threw a lot of curve balls into the group, asking questions that maybe people have stopped thinking about. I can't write out his whole talk, but like Tom Kyte, he seems to have a "question everything" philosophy. I like that. We can slip into taking things at face value too quickly. I am not suggesting cynical, I suggesting thinking about what's been proposed, before just accepting, regardless of the 'authority' proposing it.

I was also impressed with the piece of news that they use mod_pl/sql and he repeated, "PL/SQL is FAST" (read with Aussie accent) a number of times. I used to love that technology when I worked with it. One of the first courses I wrote many years back, after "Oracle Designer New Features", was the Web Server Generator course (or WSG as it is/was affectionately called). We generated PL/SQL, used owa and htp etc and of course mod_pl/sql. Very performant. Of course this is the architecture for Application Express (HTMLDB) and you may know that many Oracle sites (See Apex Studio and Apex References), are built using this technology. I know, from past experience that many, many companies out there have used this technology, very successfully. Many are hand coded, i.e. not using Application Express or Generating from Designer. It was refreshing to see there are still folk out there, very happy with this technology.

It was quite fitting then this morning to see Pete Finnigan's blog picking up on Laurent's article on mod_pl/sql. While Laurent talks of how easy it is to get started, Pete is a security man, so you should think about them both. This had me do a little search and Roland Bouman does a piece on setting yourself up on XE. So now you have enough links to get lost in the web for at least a morning!

Of course, sitting behind all of this PL/SQL stuff, is the need for a nice little tool to help you edit and debug and review... so do download SQL Developer and give it a go. When I talk about SQL Developer, I end up demonstrating a lot of the functionality and as with any product, there are things I do, that others are not aware of. So not only did that part of the audience who've not yet ventured into using the product say they would be downloading it now, but those who are using it found a few more features.

Go on - give it a go -

I'd like to hear from you.


Roland Bouman said...

Hi Sue,

I went on using mod_owa, and the solution is now deployed on my customer's servers. It's an apache 1.3.34, with mod_ssl, mod_owa and mod_gzip.

Doug McMahon patched mod_owa, and it now supports the 2-parameter style for variable parameterlists. This means you shouldn't need to modify the PL/SQL signatures: stuff calling upon mod_plsql urls are completely and correctly understood by mod_owa.

I didn't try the other option - set apache up as a proxy for the OracleXE http listener. However, there seem to be quite a few people happy with that. Check it out on the OracleXE forum.

kind regards,

Roland (http://rpbouman.blogspot.com/)

Jens said...

we are still using mod_plsql, as we have been for more than 8 years (well it wasn't mod_plsql back thenin the OWS-days, but same consept...)
Most our applications are 100% WSG generated, but we have started writing more and more by hand, to get richer user interfaces than we have managed to make in Designer.
For security, we use Oracle Single SignOn, utilising our own security API based on OID.
I find it a pity that Oracle is giving up on Designer (at least the WSG). I am having problems finding a faster way of dynamically build data-sentric web-pages. Mix this with dynamically built javascript code, and you have a graphical UI not standing back from client/server applications. Of course, what this approach lacks is a Graphical development IDE. The good thing: Developers learn to write efficient HTML and Javascript.

Jens Jessen
Halliburton Norway

PS. Our developers are using the SQL Developer in combination with Jdeveloper, and find it a useful combination.
Hope you manage to merge the SQL Developer functionality into Jdeveloper.....
(Oh, yes: We do use Java for a few things as well, as this gives us a bridge between the database and filesystems...)

Sue said...

Hi Jens,

I remember the DADs and OWS days too. You might be interested to know that Oracle worked with a group of developers from ODTUG on what they called a community project. The ODTUG crowd they collaborated with are all experienced WSGers and they had wanted to add functionality to the product. I believe this first attempt at community work with Designer was very succeessful. So the ODTUG WSG developers decided on and wrote the new functionality and it was rolled into Designer. You might want to check out the Designer forum on OTN to see more.

As for SQL Developer and JDeveloper - that's the plan - to roll the SQL Developer features back into JDeveloper. The teams working on SQL Developer and JDeveloper, on the database side, collaborate very closely.


Mike O said...

Eight years and counting form em as well. I'm glad the communty project is working out so well, though I haven't participated as much as I'd have liked; as one of the troublemakers who proposed it, I really should.

Some of us still as using WSG; primarily because nothing elese is available for repository-based rapid application development for high-perfomance web applications. I am actually finding more ad mre references to it in the last six months, rather thatn fewer and fewer. Maybe Oralce wil wise up and do somethig to keep it advancing. I'd love to have the generator reworked to produce APEX content (I know, Sue; the maintenance nightmare).

Mike O said...

Boy I was tired on that last post! Working full and part time together taking it's toll, I guess.