Thursday, December 27, 2007

Flashback 2007... Flashforward 2008...

The last year went unbelievable fast. I've the impression, the older I get, the faster the world goes! Just as last year I took a moment to look back at some of my highlights.

My highlights for 2007 (per month):
  • January: I started helping Ordina to build up an Oracle team. I'm pleased with the result; 15 new people came on board, we worked for some new customers and did some nice projects.
  • February: Oracle Application Express 3.0 was released. I believe this was a big step in the current success of APEX.
  • March 14: the Apex Evangelists website went live. The idea started in October 2006 and after a couple of months of brainstorming and sorting things out, John Scott and I announced a company focusing only on Oracle Application Express.
  • April 2: I had a first discussion about APEX "against/next to" JDeveloper/ADF.
  • April 19: I gave my first APEX presentation in the States during Collaborate '07 in Las Vegas. A few days before I also sat in the APEX panel and organized the APEX Meet-Up.
  • May 17: Announcement of the first European APEX Training Days
  • June: my second ODTUG, in Daytona Beach. During that event I did an APEX presentation, the APEX Meetup and a Podcast with Lewis Cunningham. I also met the Oracle APEX Development team again and I met Patrick Wolf for the first time in real-life.
  • July 11: Launch of Oracle Database 11g
  • August 7: first Apex Evangelists onsite Oracle Application Express Training together with John Scott.
  • September was the month of the most exciting highlights of this year
  • September 4th-6th: First European Apex Training Days
  • September 19th morning: Announcement of the second European Apex Training Days
  • September 19th evening: my first baby... a son, Matthias, got born
  • September 30th: first time "away" with Matthias for a dinner with Steven Feuerstein.
  • October: prepare for November and enjoy Matthias
  • November: my second Oracle Open World. I also did an APEX presentation at OOW and organized the Apex Meetup and Apex Roundtable.
  • December 5: my first UKOUG where I flew in, did an APEX presentation and Roundtable on the same day and had some great food with some nice friends.
  • December 8: my first Mac, a MacBook Pro
  • December 17: presenting together with Lucas Jellema in the Netherlands: "APEX vs ADF"
  • December 27: this post, as I find it unbelievable what I did last year
It has been an amazing year! If I look at my post Flashforward 2007 I'm happy I could meet my "goals". I think I promoted Oracle and APEX even more by building up Apex Evangelists and an Oracle team and doing presentations at several events. I definitely explored new sides of myself by doing these presentations and trying to launch several projects.

In my private life, I got a nice little baby, which is an awesome experience. I didn't find an house, but we bought some land to build one.

Finally to end 2007, I did around 135 blog posts... The stats of this blog:

For 2008 I hope my family stays healthy and we may enjoy life even more as before.

If I'm allowed to ask for more, in private life; it would be nice if I find the time to also be with my family and we could start with the building of our new house.
On professional life; I hope we can let Apex Evangelists grow in 2008, promote APEX even more, give good APEX support to our customers, develop some outstanding software and do some nice projects.

My last lines of my blog post of 2007 is for all of you!
Thank you so much for reading my blog, giving comments and feedback and for meeting you at several events.
I wish you a very Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I yielded... Welcome MacBook Pro

Two weeks ago I got my new MacBook Pro. For a long time I had to hear from certain people how much better Mac was... Finally I yielded and bought one!

For the techies... my configuration looks like this: MacBook Pro 15.4'', 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4 GB of memory, GeForce 8600M GT 256 MB graphics card, 200 GB (7200 rpm) harddisk.

In the beginning I had to get used to this new machine, but after a week I was impressed by this jewel. The Leopard operating system is really impressive! The features I like most at the moment: Visual Look and Feel, Easy of installation of software, Expose, Spaces and Screen Sharing!

Before I tell you how I use my new laptop, this is the other software I installed: VM Ware Fusion, SQL Developer, Adium (chat), Firefox (with some plugins as Firebug), Cyberduck (ftp), Skype, iWork '08, SSH Tunnel Manager, QuickSilver and Adobe Creative Suite. I'm currently evaluating TextMate, MacFuse, Office and OmniPlan. If you know some other good software, let me know... I'm a newbie in the Mac arena ;-)

I'm using this Mac for everything now... from reading my mails or surfing the internet to APEX development and giving presentations and training.

For ex while I'm developing I open a tunnel to the AE servers and use SQL Developer to work on the application back-end (database stuff). In my browser I do the APEX development and when I want to discuss some things with John Scott for ex. (who has also a Mac ;-)) we just do Screen sharing (through iChat) and I see his screen or he sees my screen. Very useful!!

Giving presentations with Keynote is still something I need to get used to. I prepared the presentation of Monday (APEX vs ADF) on my Mac in Keynote. But when I arrived in the Netherlands I saw the connection to the beamer isn't straight forward with a Mac! Of course I didn't take the screen converter plug with me, so I ended up doing my presentation with my Dell laptop. Luckily Keynote could export to pdf and powerpoint. So I expect my first public "performance" with my MacBook Pro will be during the European Apex Training Days in March in London.

But I'm already well prepared ;-) The VM I had with Oracle Linux, Oracle DB 11g, APEX and BI Publisher Server was still working in this version of VM Ware (in Mac it's called VM Ware Fusion instead of VM Ware Workstation). Another VM I have is one with Windows 2003, Office 2003 and BI Publisher Desktop.

So my demos will be a browser and SQL Developer in OSX, my Oracle Linux VM for my database and my Oracle Windows 2003 VM to show the BIP Desktop features.

This is all working very smoothly! Unbelievable, really! Also... If you plugin some other hardware (like external hard disk, mouse etc.) it works immediate! No pain of drivers, it just works!

My "things to remember" if you come from a Windows environment:

  • get used to the new OS
  • use a mouse, or know that right click is CTRL mouse click
  • there're only 2 USB ports, use Firewire for your external harddisk
  • maximum resolution is 1440x900 (a bit larger as the 1900x1200 of my Windows laptop)
  • learn the new shortcuts and talk to others how to do things
  • if you need to connect to a monitor/projector, don't forget your converter
So far I don't regret having bought this Mac...

My wife, working in the Graphics industry, already works with Mac for years. She also said Mac was so easy, but maybe she just wants to have a "cool" guy... You should definitely have a look at this video!!! ;-)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

APEX vs ADF: Round 1

As announced before, on Monday I did a presentation together with Lucas Jellema about the differences in APEX and ADF.

On the right you see the picture I used on the first slide. You don't know? Does David (APEX) and Goliath (ADF) rings a bell?

The goal was not to "tackle" each other, but show the audience both technologies. We had a lot of fun! Both Lucas and myself are very passionate about "our precious", so once and a while we teased each other. The 80 people had some good laughs, the atmosphere was very energetic, something you can expect of a good "fight" ;-)

So what did we do?

Michiel Jonkers was the host and he welcomed everybody, prepared the audience for the evening and introduced both Lucas and myself.

Then I started with an Introduction about Oracle Application Express (about 30 mins). Where did it come from? How does the architecture look like? And why should you use APEX?
Then it was time for Lucas to do the same for ADF.

During the preparation we discussed how we would do it and finally decided to start from the same ERD and try to create a survey application in 6 hours. We would see how much we could do in that amount of time. I was impressed with what Lucas did in that amount of time in ADF (and JSF). A few years ago I worked with BC4J, so I knew a little bit of it, but I must say they let the product evolve largely.

So we both demonstrated our application and explained how we did it. You can see the application I made here. The presentation (with in it the break down of the time used to create the application) you find here.

After the break, with some great food, we both explained how you can start with both products and showed how to create an application.

At the end we had the Q&A. Some questions are always coming back: "When shouldn't you use APEX/ADF?", "Does APEX also work for large applications?", "What about Business Logic" etc.

I had a great time! If you were there I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

PS/ Some others blogged about it too... Douwe Pieter van den Bos here and Marco Gralike here. If I missed yours, feel free to add a link in the comments. I believe Michiel Jonkers is also going to blog about it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

ADVERT: Agenda European APEX Training Days

A few days ago we released our agenda to the people coming to the AE European Oracle Application Express Training Days.

This training will be held in London in March 18th-20th 2008. It's not a beginners training, more an advanced one, although "advanced" is difficult to measure.

There are still a few places left, so if you have been looking for some Advanced APEX training by some of the most passionate APEX people around then sign up quickly as places are limited. 

Monday, December 10, 2007

ODTUG - Last Day to Submit Your Abstract

Just got a mail that it's the last day to submit your presentation for the Kaleidoscope 2008 conference of ODTUG.

Title: Evolution of the Developer: Middleware and Beyond
Date: June 15-19, 2008
Venue: Sheraton New Orleans, Louisiana

There's also a new APEX Symposium the Sunday before the conference with some APEX Case Studies...

UKOUG Thursday

After a good sleep John and I went for an English breakfast. To be honest, I expected more about the breakfast, especially as I already stayed in Reading and Manchester where the breakfast in these hotels were amazing. But it can also be that I'm getting used to the "big" meals ;-)

The first session I was in was about APEX Security by Peter Lorenzen. He did a nice job, it's definitely an area people are interested in. I would have shown more demo's, but the downside then is that you can't cover the amount of content Peter covered now.

Next on my agenda was the famous talk by Steven Feuerstein about PLSQL Best Practices.
Although I already saw the presentation, I like to listen to Steven. The way he presents and the content are so good and I learn by repetition ;-) For ex. playing the SET game during his presentation was really fun.

In the afternoon everybody was leaving and the UKOUG was already history...

In the evening John showed me a part of Leeds and we had some nice Indian food.
On Friday I headed back home. My last flight of the year...

Sunday, December 09, 2007

UKOUG Wednesday

Wednesday morning I arrived in Birmingham. The weather wasn't great, dark clouds and rain.

I went to the hotel, the Jury's Inn, but couldn't check in until 2pm, so I headed to the ICC buildings where the UKOUG conference was being held. Luckily it wasn't to far from the hotel, only a 5 min walk. The building was quiet impressive: lots of glass and big.

I registered as a speaker and went to my first session, which I was a session chair for, which means I had to introduce the speaker. The speaker was John Scott, does that ring a bell?

When I entered the room John would present in, I was amazed and tumbled! Unbelievable! What a big and nice room!

John asked me to keep my introduction short as he had a lot to talk about. At OOW he did the same presentation but got 90 minutes, now he had only 60... A challenge!

I followed his instruction and did my fastest introduction ever, 8 seconds ;-)

John did a fantastic job in his presentation about "Debugging APEX Applications", which proves this article and that some people came to him and told him that it was "the best presentation" they had seen so far. Of course I didn't do mine yet ;-) (only joking!)

Right after John's presentation I had to participate in the APEX Roundtable. Jeremy Duggan was the host and in the panel we had Anthony Rainer, Peter Lorenzen and myself. John Scott was in the audience but answered also a lot of questions, so although it wasn't on the schedule, you can state John was in the panel too.
Jeremy asked the people the questions they had or the topics they wanted to talk about, noted that down and then we started to answer them. Some of the questions we had, were about javascript, security, when apex/when java and authorization.

Then I went for lunch, I was really hungry as I had only eaten in the early morning before I left and it was already 2pm (in Belgium time that's even 3pm). The catering and logistic could have been better I think, especially when I compare it to OOW, ODTUG or the IOUG events.

In the afternoon I walked a bit around and finally sat down to prepare for my presentation.

I had to do the last presentation of the day, before the keynote. As I thought the people started to become tired I tried to make it as digestible as possible.

I talked about the integration of BI Publisher and APEX. The more I do this presentation the more I try to put in things of BI Publisher. For ex. Conditional formatting, multiple datasets, ppt output... next time I might talk about the Scheduler and passing parameters to BIP reports.

In the evening John Scott , Peter Scott, Borkur Steingrimsson, Mark Rittman and myself went to a pub. We had some excellent tapas and some beers. They are all really nice guys, we had good talks and laughs! Later that evening we went to another pub, it's the unofficial Oaktable pub I heard later, and it must be said that the more famous Oracle people (bloggers) were in that bar. For ex. I talked to Marco Gralike, Lisa Dobson, Kurt Van Meerbeeck, Doug Burns, Mark Bobak, ... The later the evening the more tired I got, so at 11.30pm I went back to the hotel to get some sleep.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

UKOUG first impressions

After too little sleep I left to Birmingham.

The flight went well and at 9 o'clock I was in a cab driving to the conference. At first sight the conference is more "serious". The people look more serious, wear suits and are more formal. But it can just be a first impression ;-)

I forgot my camera cable, so I can't show any pictures before Saturday.

I just finished the roundtable and I'm waiting to get in my room for my presentation, which starts in 30 minutes. In the evening I'll probably go for a beer and an early sleep.

I'll post again in the weekend with pictures, in the meanwhile you my read John Scott's blog or Mark Rittman or Doug Burns or a lot others.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Call BI Publisher report from APEX

After my post about the integration of APEX and BI Publisher I got some questions about further integration.

Also during my presentation "Advanced PDF documents from Oracle Application Express using Oracle Business Intelligence Publisher" at Oracle Open World I got some questions about security.

If you didn't see my presentation yet, you can download it here or you can see me presenting this week at UKOUG or in London in March 2008 during the European APEX Training Days.

When Daniel sent me a mail about his thread in the Application Express Forum I decided to post some more about BIP and APEX integration.

What we want to do: link a report made in BI Publisher to a button in APEX. This need to be as automated as possible...

Why do we want to do this as APEX is providing PDF printing out-of-the-box?

The answer is that APEX is limited in printing and BI Publisher is specialized in this area. In a next version of APEX (3.1 and 4.0) the printing is enhanced, but today that's not yet the case.
If you want to include multiple queries in your APEX report or print/export it as a ppt for ex. or even just fax a report, APEX doesn't provide this functionality declarative, but BI Publisher (BIP) does.

I suppose you know how to create a report in BIP, so I won't go into detail about that. In a previous post I already explained how you can install BIP (for Windows and Linux) and link it to APEX, so that's something you won't find here.

If you don't have a BIP report yet, you find some example/demo reports when logging in into BI Publisher (for ex. an url like: http://your-server:9704/xmlpserver).
An example of a report, go to: Home (Reports) > Shared Folders > Supply Chain Management > Warehouse Inventory Report

If you call that report you need to be authenticated (known by BIP) to get the result. That's something we want to avoid as we don't want to login in BIP again when coming from APEX...

To avoid you need to login again, go to: Admin > Security Center > Security Configuration

There're some different Security Models available to you (LDAP, BIP, DB). If you would use Single Sign-On, your live would be quiet simple as you don't have to do anything. But in this article I'm concentrating on the standard BI Publisher security.

To solve my logon issue, I'm making my reports public. In BIP this is called a "Guest".
In the Security Center of BIP I name my "Guest folder" (or public folder).

I'll need to create that Guest folder which will hold all the reports I'm calling from APEX.
Go to Reports > Shared Folders and create a new Folder "Guest". In that folder I created a new report (a copy of the example I showed above).

When you call that report by clicking on it, you'll see the result. You can adapt it to see it in a different output format. Then the most important part... Click on "Link to this report" and select" Document Only". A new window will pop-up on the same page with the link to the report.
Copy that url.

Now we'll use that url in our button in APEX. Create a new button and as Target select "Url" and copy the url you got from BIP in the "URL Target" field.

If you run your APEX application and click on the button you just created, you should see the report coming from BI Publisher...

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Installation of BI Publisher on OEL5 and BIP Desktop on Windows Vista

-- Update: This post remained in my drafts folder (for one month now), I guess I wanted to include something else, but I don't know what anymore, so I decided to post it as is...

As I blogged a few days ago, I created a VM with my Oracle soft. Now I'm extending my demo system with BI Publisher. So far, so good, wasn't it I also need Oracle BI Publisher Desktop, and that runs on Windows. I could have gone for another VM for only that, which would be the most secure thing as it would be a "fixed" working environment (without the windows updates etc.).

Nevertheless, I didn't do that, as my systems RAM is going bananas! Windows Vista is already eating 1GB of my RAM, the other 1GB I use for my VMware. So no room left for another VM with Windows.

As I'm giving a presentation at OOW and UKOUG about the integration of APEX and BI Publisher and creating some advanced pdf's, next thing for me to do ... install BIP!

When I'm talking about Oracle Business Intelligence Publisher (BIP), I'm talking about a server part, in my case BI Publisher for Linux and a client part, BI Publisher Desktop for Windows.

Installation of BI Publisher in OEL5 (Oracle Enterprise Linux 5)

Installing BIP in Windows is a matter of minutes, click on the installation file and that's basically it. I hoped it would be as easy in Linux, but ...

After downloading BIP for Linux, I read the manual. There're not that many pre-requisites, so I started with "./runInstaller".

What followed was a nice java error thrown by the OUI (Oracle Universal Installer).
When you think you've all needed libraries installed, there's for an odd reason always one more! In my case I had to install the libXp-1.0.0-8.i386.rpm package to get the installation of BIP running.

So these are the steps I followed to install BIP (server) in OEL5
  1. Start a Terminal
  2. Install the required library: rpm -Uvh libXp-1.0.0-8.i386.rpm (you find the rpm on CD2 of OEL5)
  3. Download BI Publisher
  4. Extract the file: cpio -idmv < (the downloaded file)
  5. Do a Basic Installation of BIP: ./runInstaller
  6. Go for the defaults, which means you get a proper oc4j for your BI Publisher
  7. To configure your APEX with BI Publisher you may want to read my previous blog post.
    Be sure you did all pre and post installations for your DB and BIP.

Installation of BI Publisher Desktop in Windows Vista

Installing software to demo on your daily OS, isn't maybe the smartest thing to do, but I already explained why I'm still doing it. Let's hope my settings will still be good at OOW ;-)

  1. Download and install Java Runtime Environment (JRE) 6 Update 3
  2. Download and install Oracle BI Publisher Desktop
  3. You may want to read this before installing BIP Desktop on Vista.
    I went for all default settings.
  4. In MS Word you'll see the BIP Add-in (see screenshot)