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Month of July, 2008

AYTS 2008 - Are you the smartest ?

I had a subject for a next blog entry already picked out when this mail came along :

Finally found some time for finishing off my ayts-movies and write a trip report - here is the result :


Joris is a employee of Ordina Belgium (so I guess he must be an ex-collegue of Dimitri Gielis). And Joris won the Oracle AYTS competition representing Ordina.
Don't worry - AYTS is not another product in Oracle's portfolio or the latest mutation of some J2EE framework.

AYTS is a competition organised by Oracle Belgium for all their local partners.
I hear they are now extending the contest to other countries too, like The Netherlands (and I think also Germany and Switserland - but I might be wrong about that tho).
AYTS or 'Are You The Smartest?' is the brain child of Yves Van Looy, a belgian based (pre)sales consultant and is basically a clever incentive to get the partners up to speed with the latest Oracle developments/products/technologies

Here is how it goes down - 10 or so Oracle partners enroll a number of software engineers, dba's, consultants,...
There are 4 technical and 1 commercial session - each session takes about 1/2 day and covers one topic.
For those who know the workshops/masterclasses on the last day of the UKOUG - it's a bit like that ...
At the beginning of each session you need to take an exam covering the previous topic. The exams are multiple choice
and open book. This sounds easy but I can assure you, it's not. There have been cases were people got negative scores on exams Wink 
At the end of the competition, there is a graduation ceremony where the winner for each Oracle Partner is rewarded with a price.

This year's topics were :
- ADF & Coherence by Filip Huysmans
- Oracle Identity & Access Management (IAM) by Antonio Mata
- Oracle WebCenter Suite 11g by Filip Huysmans
- Oracle 11g new features
- Oracle pricing/licencing by Yves Van Looy

Last year's 2007 topics were OBI, SOA Suite, IAM, JDEV/ADF and also a sales/pricing session.

It's a broad range of topics - developers will be more interested in the ADF & Webcenter content but will also get a taste of new RDBMS features... while for people like me - who are more into architecture and rdbms technology - there's the other stuff. So I can finally talk about ADF without sounding stupid.

Anyway - how brilliant is that !
All parties win :
- Oracle, who gets the word out to hundreds of people in the field, lowering the threshold to jump on these new technologies
- those people in the field who gain more knowledge
- and the Oracle partners who get more motivated employees

Now what's the incentive - what does make people like me follow these sessions in my own time and in the evening ?
Well - first price is a 4day VIP trip to San Francisco & Las Vegas. This year 14 Oracle Partners entered - so there
were 14 winners.
For me it was the second time I've entered and the first time I've won for AXI.
I knew some other guys that won - like Jorgen Bosman - an ex-collegue from Ferranti and still a dear friend
since I've left Ferranti in '98. Jorgen is also one of those guys who likes to write code for fun...just have a look at this page.
(oh he's a 2 for 2'r - 2 times entered and 2 times a winner)
Needless to say he became my roommate.
Another winner was Geert De Paep. His name should ring a bell - he's the man behind DBA Village.

I've been to SF & Vegas many, many times but it was still awesome !
Here's a small agenda :
day 1 : staying at Hyatt hotel near Fisherman's Wharf - visit pier 39 - check out golden gate
day 2 : visit Oracle HQ,  ride segways through SF, fancy dinner
day 3 : Vegas - room at Bellagio, great seats at Cirque du Soleil 'O'
day 4 : Grand Canyon helicopter ride with champagne lunch in the canyon
day 5 : flight home

The Oracle HQ visit was great as we got to meet Wim Coeckaerts who talked about Oracle Enterprise Linux & Oracle VM.
In short OEL is basically RHEL with all the trade marked logo's stripped away. So you're basically running RHEL. The difference is the support which is through metalink.
This is how I understood OEL's history. Basically, Oracle has a couple of big whale customers (Amazon) running Oracle on RHEL. When bugs were discovered Oracle would actually fix the bugs in RHEL and send them to RedHat... sometimes RedHat included the patch, sometimes they didn't. I guess ,Oracle basically got fed up with that and released OEL and Unbreakable Linux support program.
He pretty much convinced me to switch OEL for our future production systems. And I definitely will have a go at Oracle VM.
In fact we - at AXI - have already ordered 2 new 1U servers to test the RAC/ASM/OEL and Oracle VM combo.

Oh - one juicy detail - see if you can find Wim in one of the youtube clips... he definitely has changed his apperance Wink
We also had a presentation about ADF 11g by Shay Shmeltzer. To be honest - I still write my own java programs in Ultraedit. When I see an
ADF guru like Shay jumping around JDeveloper, it all looks so simple. But every time I need to do something in JDev myself (that's about once a year)
I'm completely lost. I mean... even when opening a new project ... there's like a million choices Yell
The irony is that I used to be a be a beta tester of the first JDev release in '98 (it was called project Walhalla back then) - things were still
simple in the 'old' days. It was just Borland JBuilder with some extra Corba features build in and no xml whatsoever.

Anyway - have a look at Joris' blog entry at It's in dutch. If you don't understand it you can at least look at the dramatic edited youtube clips (also courtesy of Joris)

In fact, the dramatic undertone of the clips made me decided to put together a clip myself - it's a snippet of me and Jorgen
getting ready to play some black jack. For dramatic effect we placed a score by Hans Zimmer on it ... looks just like Rain Man Cool

(ps Jorgen and I did tripple our money within the hour playing black jack ... only I lost 2/3 the next day)


UKOUG 2008 and more

Speaker comfirmation mails for the UKOUG 2008 are dripping in.
I see that Marco Gralike made the cut.

I'm glad to announce am 'in' too. From the many responses on the Oaktable list,
it looks like a lot of oakies will be there including my US partner Daniel Fink from Optimal DBA.
I see that Carel-Jan Engel will also be there, after missing the event last year - as a Citroën freak, he'll be happy to know I'll be trading in my Alfa 156TI for the new Citroën C5 this year. (for the Alfa freaks, I think Alfa blew it with the design of the 159)

While we're on the subject - I will also be presenting at the Oracle Technology Days on september the 9th in Brussels.
For people in the Benelux, I would like to mention that Doug Burns will be giving his Oracle 10g performance analysis course in october at the Oracle university in Brussels.
Doug is a very passionate speaker and tutor and if you're in need of a tuning course and you are in the benelux area, then don't miss out on it !
And there's more - my south african partner, and dear friend Kugendran Naidoo from NRGC will be presenting a backup & recovery paper based on the 'DUDE where's my data?' presentation at the South African Oracle User Group convention (SAOUG) in Sun City in october. I was actually thinking about joining him but now with UKOUG in sight, he'll be on his own.

With all this said - I won't be going to OOW2008. I don't mind really (you'll know why reading my next blog post).
I had a great time at OOW2007 - I did miss out on some sessions but for good reason. We went out to Sonoma county for
some wine tasting.  We ended up at Francis Ford Coppola's winery.
Here's a picture of me and my collega's at the tasting - one of the guys ended up buying 18 bottles of wine... which he eventually had to check in as luggage on the way back, because for some reason no shipping company would ship the wine to belgium.

axi at oow2007 
The fact that we look like the Daltons is completely unintentional !

A new ORA600 website - a new blog, DUDE !

I've been spending a lot of time lately redoing the website.

When I started this site, it was just a way to provide some technical details about the jDUL/DUDE tool. I needed a quick jumpstart of a website. The easiest way to do that, is to buy a Frontpage html template (which are offered by a gazillion sites), and upload that to a cheap hosting/provider. Actually, I only did the 'History' page because I otherwise had to throw one of the template's pages out. I think I all did that within 30minutes and in total costed me 25$.

It all went so fast because the website was not a priority - I had to get things moving. In fact, the whole company (ORA600) was setup within half a day (I was pretty chuffed about that - when starting a small company in Belgium there's almost no red tape anymore). For the first 2,5years I did all the financials myself... which I utterly hated. (someone give me an MBA for this Laughing). Anyway ... the jDUL/DUDE tool ... that was and still is the focus.

When looking back, it's - ahum - a miracle we got ORA600 off the ground. It was the opening of the Miracle brewery that triggered the startup...

Back then, I had no interest whatsoever in the Oracle community. I've lost my mother in 2003 (after loosing my dad 5y earlier). I did not have any brothers and sisters - and so I had decided that I should enjoy life and not wait for retirement. I had thought about it for a long time when I told my boss at AXI that I wanted to work only 4 days a week anymore. Mind you, I was only 28, 29y old - I expected him to say that I could look for another job (and I had a job in mind - the banking and insurance business is always throwing with large amounts of vacation days Cool). But no, he accepted and I haven't regretted it yet (this year is my 10th year at AXI). Just to say - I wasn't really eager to start a company on the side.

What I said above about the Oracle community is not entirely true. I wrote some open source tools - and got a paper/presentation approved for the Oracle Openworld in Berlin, 2001. The topic of the presentation was about Oracle Parallel Server and single instance databases. My luck was that 2001 was the year Oracle launched RAC - so my paper got selected (I was smart enough to put some buzzwords like cache fusion in the abstract). In actual fact, the conclusion of the presentation was that you only needed OPS/RAC if one big SMP box is not big enough and if you used it, watch out for scalability issues in your application. Funny enough, by the time I started doubting my own theory, I stumbled upon a paper called 'You probably don't need RAC' by Mogens Norgaard. I had no idea who he was, but I contacted him because I couldn't find the  RAC benchmark by Mario Broodbakker he mentions in the paper.

Another year later, 2004, I buy this book 'Oracle Insights : Tales of the Oak Table' from Amazon (I used to buy a *lot* of books back then). I've already had a quite complete jDUL version - I used it now and then on databases from people who contacted me. The problem was - I needed more people I could trust to test jDUL. The tool itself was controversial and I couldn't just give it to anyone. Now I'm really bad with names, but after reading that book, I realised (it took me a while) I had already had exchanged some mails with this Mogens character. So I thought, why not let him and his buddies play around with jDUL. I contacted him and he was interested - in fact, he cc'd Peter Gram (also from Miracle and ex-Oracle), who had tried to create a DUL like tool in the past. Those were not the words I was looking for and just blew things off. (mind you that jDUL is written in java and can be easely decompiled to it's source code - I was and still am very protective about the source code).

Fast forward another - 2005. I get a call at my office - Mogens Norgaard. He asks if I can recover a database for him and asks about the rate. Back then I agreed on recoveries, only if you uploaded the datafiles and within a limit of 15Gb.  I did the recoveries basicaly for free as they were excellent test cases. Mogens refuses the 'free' part and says he can not accept that. I found that a bit strange at the moment - I now know better, and people knowing Mogens, know he's made out of a different kind of wood then most other people. In the end we agreed that he either would give me a free seat to Miracle's next masterclass (which was Steve Adams in Utrecht - i think) or we would discuss later on how we could colaborate.

I probably would have taken the free masterclass if it wasn't for the grand opening of the Miracle Brewery. My cousin Wim is a micro brewer. In Belgium, everybody has a cousin who either makes beer or wine as a hobby or (semi-)professional. And I used to work for a brewery (Primus Haacht) as a student. (it's not part of InBev mind you!) Needless to say we were both interested in seeing the brewery. And as Mogens promised to set us up at Lasse's place it was only natural that Wim, me and Els (then girlfriend - now wife) would go on a roadtrip. I had this gps system back then - a pioneer AVIC X1. I trusted it blindly - unfortunately, the brewery is located in a street called 'strandvej' or basically 'beachroad' ... apparently, there are a lot streets called 'strandvej' near the beach even within the same village... I think Lasse will still remember the trouble he had guiding us in !

wim at miracle brewery

Anyway - the opening itself was pretty cool - lots of beer of course. And the beer was quite good. Much to our surprise, because it's not normal that a recipe is good on the first batch. So kudos to Lasse. As you can see from the picture above - my cousing Wim had the time of his life Cool. I had no idea what Mogens looked like and we only got to talk business later in the evening. I think we were both drunk and the conversation was quite short (I only needed an answer to one question really). Anyway I had met Lasse and Mogens face to face and that was enough for me to go for it. (beer is an excellent catalyst) So that day was quite defining and quite unexpected.


That's the reason I went with the simple web presence - it was all quite sudden. So after 3 years, I think it's fair to say it was time for a make over. I took the original Frontpage theme and turned it into a Drupal theme. Drupal is a CMS with its origine in Belgium. It's database driven - I could have used OracleXE, but I didn't (I could have even used APEX, but I didn't). I went with mysql instead. Maybe I'll blog about it later. The major reason for going the Drupal road is that it's :

  • open source
  • there are a million modules available to do just about anything
  • php based - and I needed to write a whole partner module for generating licenses and customer/partner management
  • most people use Wordpress Wink

The last thing that was missing was a blog ... this whole web 2.0 thing sure got fired up the last 3years so maybe it's time I jump that wagon too. You'll probably find some recovery war stories here in the future... but what you probably will not find here are whole replicas of Oracle manuals (that's not why I read blogs). Anyway - I won't be writing any hardcore dry technical content ... I do that enough already during the day.

I guess that's enough for now - time to get back to the real world.





See DUDE primer for info

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