28 June 2006

ODTUG's new Website

Following my last post, Kent has now posted a comment on how you can find his presentation on the new ODTUG site. You can download his talk on the site here:

If you look at the URL...http://www.odtug.com/pls/htmldb/f?p=500:...
you'll note the htmldb format. This is because the site has been redeveloped using Application Express (htmldb). It's worth noting this on 2 fronts. One is that many folk think that an Apex (affectionate abbreviation for Application Express) is not capable of producing complex or interesting sites and the other is that the redesign makes getting to articles much easier.
You'll see that some articles are for members only (Kent's is public). Not sure what drives the decision as to which articles are public and which are for members only, so you'll need to watch for that. There are certainly a good number of public articles and presentations available on the site.

19 June 2006

ODTUG and Quality Data Models through Humiliation?!

This week I'm in Washington DC at the ODTUG annual conference. For those of you who don't know, this is a well established Oracle Developer's User Group, originally focused primarily on Oracle Designer (then CASE) with a close second in Oracle Forms.
Today's keynotes saw two old familiar faces;
Marco Tilli and Sohaib Abassi, both long time friends of the conference and in their time, were Volley Ball players on whichever beach or piece of sand wherever that year's ODTUG conference was being held. Back, this time not talking about Forms, Portal or Designer, but how we should all by now be more aware of SOA, of how business services can be reused, of integration and of the whole importance of data integration and its importance in the industry today.
With Java and the whole J2EE explosion, ODTUG have had to reinvent themselves. Something I was not sure they'd do with success, but I think they have cracked it. The halls are buzzing with old familiar faces. Some developers are not currently working with Oracle technology, yet still they return, the contacts and friends made at this event too important to lose. Other developers are reinventing themselves, learning new technology and bringing wisdom and experience to the table. This year, not too many grumpy old men!

Interesting too was the large number of first timers at the conference this year. I'm always amazed at this, the number of newbies arriving at the various conferences I attend. It's always a healthy percentage.

This year's ODTUG conference offers half day hands-on sessions alongside regular presentations. The weekend prior to the event, they ran a full day Web Architecture Symposium, which I have only heard highest praise for, and a couple of full day hands on sessions. I'd say attendees can get their monies worth if they participate in all on offer, specially if they get involved and mingle and talk, listen and learn!

Peer Reviews
The first talk I attended was Kent Graziano's talk, "Data Design Reviews: Using Extreme Humiliation to Ensure Quality Data Models". What a title!
Using the peer reviews they use within his department as a basis for his talk, he told us about building effective data models. They have a fixed set of standards, build logical models, which must conform to those standards, and have rigorous peer reviews. Once accepted, these logical models are then transformed to physical models, which have to conform to standards, and then have rigorous reviews of these. If and when these all pass and are accepted, the DDL is generated and reviewed before being passed on to the department that consumes them. They do not spend months on building models before reviews, but have incremental builds, so the review is brief, less than an hour, and they have them often.
I think the rigorous could be scary, specially for new folk, but the peer to peer knowledge transfer and the team work must outweigh any disadvantages. I loved the sound of the approach. (Specially having seen a few sick models in my time) I also think this practice can and should be translated to any part of a company - from those writing coding, to those writing papers and producing power point presentations. You might think this would slow down the pace, but I suspect teams would be more efficient, and the resulting work of a much higher quality.
Aah, by the way, Kent stressed, "it's business, it's not personal" For example in a peer review, when you criticize the name of entity, it's not because you don't like it, it's because it doesn't comply to the standard. I think so often we are too defensive, we assume someone is critiquing us, our approach, but if you have a set of standards, then things are less subjective and in the end, better for the good of the project and in the end, the company.
If you can, take a look at Kent's paper on the ODTUG site. It should be up after the conference. Kent is also author of a few books on data models, if you are on the lookout for one.

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.