Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Additional Skills to become an Oracle expert

In the last months I did some more non-Oracle certifications and trainings to broaden my knowledge.

Why should you follow non-Oracle training as an Oracle expert?

You can try to become the best Oracle developer or dba by learning a lot about the Oracle database and the (development) tools. Everybody sees added value into that, isn't it? The more you know of Oracle, the better you do your Oracle job? I think that's only partially true.

I believe having experience and soft skills are also important. Experience you can only build by doing your job and getting older (to bad ;-)). Some people have luck as they received at birth qualities that simplifies the learning of some soft skills, but even if you didn't receive it, you can still work on it. As a consultant for ex. effective communication, being creative and motivated, presentation techniques, customer oriented are skills that can be very useful.

Something else that I think will become more important are the use of methods or best practices in your job. A framework can simplify your life and also let you be more structured.

Some of the frameworks/methodologies I followed in the last months:

ITIL: IT Infrastructure Library

ITIL means IT alignment with the business. I think this could be an added-value for every DBA. I strongly believe that the role of an (Oracle) DBA will change in time. Or you become someone who will need to know the business and have an overview of the entire system for ex. with Oracle Grid Control, so you need to know a bit of everything. Or you need to become a real guru for the Oracle database as it's getting more complex. The database will do more and more things for you, but to understand what he's doing, you need to know a lot...

For the first group, ITIL can help a lot. Grid Control will be your Management Tool, but then when you suddenly get a red light! You have a problem... What will you do? How to handle it? How to do the follow-up? How to know it never happens again? And what will be the impact for the business?

How you can handle that process is described in ITIL.

I know a lot of "Service Desks" using/or being based on ITIL nowadays... I think a lot of organisations will organize some (IT) departments, so that would also impact you (as Oracle DBA).

For developers a useful method is PRINCE2.


"PRINCE2 is recognised as a world-class international product and is the standard method for project management, not least because it embodies many years of good practice in project management and provides a flexible and adaptable approach to suit all projects. It is a project management method designed to provide a framework covering the wide variety of disciplines and activities required within a project. The focus throughout PRINCE2 is on the Business Case, which describes the rationale and business justification for the project. The Business Case drives all the project management processes, from initial project set-up through to successful finish."

As a developer life would be a lot easier when you would exactly know what you had to do. A lot of projects don't have a project manager (or project board). Is it always needed? No, I didn't say that, but for every project you should have somebody who does the role of a project manager.

When going through the PRINCE2 course/certification I found the set-up really useful. A project board with a Senior User, and Executive and a Senior Supplier. On the next level the Project Manager etc. A lot of projects are doing this maybe intuitively (I had that feeling), but having it on paper, made it more structured.

In PRINCE2 I saw the different Processes, Components and Techniques. When you, as a developer, knows about all these, the team becomes more powerful and can go a lot faster, I think.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

APEX Forum - Week 21

My goal is to put some links to the forum that took my attention in the last week. Sometimes these posts made me laugh, sometimes they made me cry and some of them I found really interesting.

The most funny posts:

  • APEX API - interface description: Some developers have a hard time to implement APEX in their environment. How secure do you want it to be?
  • Windows Express 3.0 Bug?: Sometimes users are confused about names... APEX, XE, Windows, Oracle database, 10g some many words, so many differences
  • Loading images!!!!: How to ask a question? Or better how not to ask a question! Ofcourse the message was clear, but why so many !!!
The most interesting topics:Announcements:
If you saw something in the forums I should have included, you're free to put a comment.

Friday, May 25, 2007

APEX podcast by LewisC

This morning I listened to a great podcast about APEX.

Lewis Cunningham interviewed David Peak, Application Express Product Manager from Oracle and Peter Martin, working for a company in the EMEA automotive industry and APEX user.

I took some notes... here they are:

What are the key features of APEX?

  • Developing Secure applications is easy with APEX
  • Declarative way of programming (using wizards)
  • Built in Reporting, Forms, Charts, Pdf reports
  • Possibility of using Webservices
  • Upload spreadcheat
  • Free
Why should we use APEX?
  • Extreme Rapid Application Development (RAD)
  • Completely web-based
  • Very good tool to have immediate result, excellent in proto-typing
  • You can start building apps in APEX next to the customer and agree on the layout (user sees what he gets), then start with the back-end.
  • You only need a webbrowser to develop in APEX
  • APEX development environment is built by itself, it's also completely meta-data driven and based on PLSQL
  • Start with a design model and use the full potential of the Oracle database
  • Free with the database (if you've an Oracle license)
  • Free with XE, screens of XE are made with APEX (the APEX version of XE is different as the "normal/full" one)
How to compare developing in APEX with Ruby on Rails?
  • Benefit by using APEX:
    • Framework within Oracle database
    • Integrated with the database (security, enterprise functionality, ...)
    • Don't need to focus on connection pooling or typical java environment complexity
    • Prototyping - RAD environment
    • Completely Free
How is APEX used in your environment, Peter?
  • About the company he's working for and how they use APEX
    • EMEA, automotive industry
    • Terrabyte database
    • > 100 million records
  • They use Discoverer but also want to go to APEX (internally)
  • Integration with SSO, Forms
  • Developing in APEX - the sky is the limit
  • Reuse of their SQL/PLSQL skills without getting to know the java framework
What are the challenges when developing with APEX?
  • Because it's so easy to develop
  • Use a plan/proces to make a GOOD application
  • Use the APEX framework as good (best) as possible
  • Go to some Apex Evangelists trainings to learn how to best use APEX (joke, they didn't say that) ;-)
What is new in APEX 3.0 or are the highlights of this new version?
  • Integration with BI Publisher
  • Use of Flash Charts
  • Webservice capabilities: talk to Oracle BPEL for ex.
  • Navigation, improvement of UI
  • Access migration workshop: from Access mdb file -> take export and migrate directly into Oracle
    • -> SQL Developer: tables
    • -> APEX: forms, reports
What are other strong points of (developing with) APEX?
  • Strong user community and community feeling
  • Forums are a great source of information, the APEX forum is the most used forum on OTN!!
  • Also some good Blogs:
  • Integrating with Spatial, OLAP, E-business Suite
  • 9 existing Packaged applications, new ones are in the pipe
    • Designed to show how we do things
    • Show a working solution
What about the future and the integration of APEX with SOA?
  • APEX is not competing with J2EE
  • APEX has also Webservices and can integrate with BPEL, SSO etc.
  • APEX can be the glue between all your applications or an extension to an existing app
  • When you have a lot of complex middle tier logic, Oracle provides J2EE for this
  • Use the best tool for your team (if you've a lot of Java programmers, you can go for Java/SOA, in all other cases APEX is a possibility)
To conclude my notes, I found it an interesting podcast! Thanks Lewis...

I believe APEX is getting more popular!
Tom Kyte (and me too) says sometimes: "Every single day I learn something new"
If I change that a bit: "Every single day a new person gets to know APEX"

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Asking direct questions

I already thought about it before and decided to finally do it after I read the System Stats strategy blog post of Jonathan Lewis. He states: "I don’t tend to respond to individual questions - it’s not an effective use of my time - so there has to be a good reason for replying."

Tom Kyte also stated here: "If the question comes in email and is very very easy/quick to answer - sometimes I'll supply the quick answer along with my standard "please don't email me directly" quote I have saved as a signature. I cannot do it via email - I'd get nothing else done."

In the last weeks I get a lot of direct questions about APEX in my mailbox. I don't mind questions, I really like them! It also shows that APEX is getting more used and it feels nice to get the recognition.

But the problem begins when you end up only answering questions from your mail ;-)
If I answer a question through mail, only one person learns from it, if I answer questions in the forum everybody with the same problem can read my answer.

I really would like to encourage people to post their questions in the Oracle Forums. Not only I'm answering some questions, but there're a lot more APEX specialists to answer them or who add their thoughts to the threads.
If you believe I'm the only person who can help you (which I doubt), you can add "to Dimitri: ..." in the forum.

When can you contact me directly?
- When you need direct support, but then it's better to contact consult@apex-evangelists.com
- When you think it's a nice question to blog about... So the direct questions I get, will probably become a blog post ;-)
- For questions about the APEX SIG, APEX meet-ups, Apex Evangelists, my presentations or personal questions

Thanks for understanding...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

APEX Forum - Week 20

My goal is to put some links to the forum that took my attention in the last week. Sometimes these posts made me laugh, sometimes they made me cry and some of them I found really interesting.

The most funny posts:

The most interesting topics:Announcements:
  • A nice example page of the new Flash Charts in APEX 3.0
  • All the APEX How to's: here
If you saw something in the forums I should have included, you're free to put a comment.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

New Google Analytics Stats for this Blog

My Google Analytics account is also migrated to the new version (beta).
It's pretty cool to use GA, as you have a bit more information about your visitors...

The Dashboard

Track Clicks

I capture when somebody clicks to download my whitepaper, just to have an idea how many people are interested in that topic.
The below images shows how many times my whitepaper was downloaded (from my blog). If there're some direct links to my whitepaper, then they're not taken into account.

I like this new version of Google Analytics, but nevertheless I tend to keep my Statcounter stats too.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Announcing European APEX Training Days

APEX Evangelists, of which I am a co-founder, is very pleased to announce the general availability of our first Application Express European Training Days.

The 3-day course, covering many different advanced Application Express topics, will be held from the 4th to the 6th of September 2007 at the exclusive Le Plaza Hotel in Brussels (Belgium).

The training will be given by some of the most experienced APEX specialists in the world (and also perhaps a special 'mystery' guest speaker!), there will also be a lot of opportunity for Q&A and discussion about APEX. It will also be a great opportunity for people to meet others in Europe who are using APEX too.

For more details and to register for the training, head over to here
(direct link to the registration page here).

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Oracle buys Agile

When I got this message in the mail: "Oracle Buys Product Lifecycle Management Leader Agile - Enables Oracle to Deliver Best-in-Class, Integrated, Enterprise PLM", I thought, waw that's cool!! Oracle is going into Extreme Programming...

But when I read further, I think this Agile company isn't the same as the Agile methodology which I blogged about a year ago.

If somebody else knows that this Agile company did make the Agile programming methodology, please put a comment.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

AE @ ODTUG Kaleidoscope 07

From June 18-21 in Daytona Beach Florida, a new ODTUG Kaleidoscope Conference is hold.

Last year, my first time at this conference, I couldn't have dreamed about it... Everything is going so fast these days that before you know you're presenting on several conferences in the States ;-)

I'm giving the same presentation at this conference as I did at Collaborate 07; APEX by Example - Shared Components (in DG Tournament).

ODTUG is developer oriented where IOUG does it all. The Oracle Development Tools User Group (ODTUG) established Kaleidoscope as its flagship event with sessions covering all the practical technical information you need to excel in your job.

What can you expect at ODTUG Kaleidoscope?

  • More than 125 Technical Sessions with handouts—real topics, with real information, for real developers. No hired presenters. No fancy footwork. Just genuine colleagues sharing practical information.
  • Two full days of preconference Hands-on Training.
  • Oracle product updates.
  • A full-day Oracle Fusion Symposium.
  • An Oracle PL/SQL Test-A-Thon, developed by Steven Feuerstein and packed with great prizes. The Test-A-Thon is sponsored by Quest Software and O’Reilly Books.
  • A one-of-a-kind Install Fest, where you will learn from the "gurus" how to install and configure Linux to run Oracle 10g software.
  • APEXposed, an ODTUG exclusive "Seriously Practical" training event on Application Express.
  • Unprecedented opportunity for networking with colleagues and experts at organized functions, on-site SIG Meetings, and more.
It will be technical and in Daytona Beach... What do you need more to survive in today's fast-paced Oracle environment? ...
I know! ... Another APEX meet-up (and something else that gets announced soon)!
If you want to meet other APEX-lovers at ODTUG 07, subscribe on this page: http://odtug2007.apex-evangelists.com/

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

APEX Forum - Week 19

My goal is to put some links to the forum that took my attention in the last week. Sometimes these posts made me laugh, sometimes they made me cry and some of them I found really interesting.

The most funny posts:

The most interesting topics:
  • None

Saturday, May 12, 2007

APEX SSP - Duplicate Submission

When reading this thread on the APEX forums about Session State Protection in APEX, I found a good tip of Scott Spadafore.

I didn't use this feature that much before, but it can be really useful to prevent users submitting the page more then once (for ex. when they hit the back button)!

Here's a screenshot how it looks like in APEX (in the Attributes of your Page)

Possible values:

  • Yes - Allow page to be re-posted
  • No - Prevent page from being re-posted

Thursday, May 10, 2007

APEX reports in SQL Developer

I just read Kris Rice blog about "New patch with APEX features".

Kris is all into SQL Developer. SQL Developer is a great tool (addition) for any APEX developer.
I use SQL Developer a lot... it prevents that you need to switch all the time between the Application Builder and the SQL Workshop in APEX.

Below the new APEX reports in SQL Developer (picture from Kris's Blog):

I suppose the reports are based on the APEX dictionary.
For ex. for Applications: see the APEX_APPLICATIONS view in the FLOWS_

As Kris stated: The only down side is that APEX 3.0.1 is required and it hasn't been released yet.

Without any promises of Oracle... I heard we can probably expect this new APEX version at the end of May/begin June time-frame.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

APEX by Example: Shared Components (whitepaper)

As I already blogged before... a while ago I made a whitepaper about APEX Shared Components.
From that whitepaper I made a presentation for Collaborate 07. The picture below was taken by John Scott a few minutes before I started my presentation. You can download my whitepaper from the IOUG website or from the Apex Evangelists site here (pdf of 3MB compressed).

In July I'll present it again at ODTUG. I updated the whitepaper for Kaleidoscope 2007 (different lay-out, other images, less pages, ...). I'll make it available for you to download after the event.

I hope you enjoy the whitepaper (there're a lot of pages!). If you have some suggestions to make it better, please let me know.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

APEX Forum - Week 18

My goal is to put some links to the forum that took my attention in the last week. Sometimes these posts made me laugh, sometimes they made me cry and some of them I found really interesting.

The most funny posts:

The most interesting topics:
  • Standalone BI Publisher is now available for Windows: here
  • Joel Kallman (APEX development team) becomes Oracle ACE: here

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Change default (first) page in APEX

Having seen this question often (yesterday again in the OTN APEX forum) and having had the same problem when I first started with APEX, I thought to blog about it.

When you make your first application in APEX you typically have as default page 1 or the login page (101). If you want to change your default (first) page you need to have a look at three different places. Let's say we want to have page 9 as default page:

1) Application Builder > Your Application > Page 101 > Processes (Page Processing) > Login
Change Process to:

P_FLOW_PAGE => :APP_ID||':9'
Whenever somebody logs in we want him to go to page 9.

2) Shared Components > Security > Authentication Schemes > Your Authentication
Change the Logout URL: wwv_flow_custom_auth_std.logout?p_this_flow=&APP_ID.&p_next_flow_page_sess=&APP_ID.:9

If somebody logged out, we set the default page to 9 as that's our default page.

3) Shared Components > Security > Edit Security Attributes
Change the Home Link to: f?p=&APP_ID.:9:&SESSION.

If no page is specified this is the page to go to for ex. f?p=100 means we're going to application 100 with as default page, the page specified in the Home Link. You can also reference this url by #HOME_LINK#.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Oracle Develop round-trip

This link at OTN shows you the details about the two day conference for Developers.

Sometimes I get the question: "What about APEX in the future?"

It's an interesting question and I'm part of a group of people writing an article about it. But if you look at this conference, you see that APEX is included in the agenda too. Have a look at Database Application Development. You'll see sessions about the SOA Suite, .NET, JAVA, Webcenter, but also APEX. I'm sure that when Oracle Database 11g get released, you'll understand that APEX will stay for a long time... In 11g you'll see APEX 3.1 with a lot of web 2.0 enhancements next to some other improvements. 11g with APEX out-of-the-box will rock, my dear friends! ;-)