my recent reads..

No respect! Should Justin care?

Justin "Dangerfield" Kestelyn launched one of the most lively discussions the Oracle community has ever had with his "I Don't Get It" post some weeks back.

"In particular," he states, "Oracle gets zero credit in this community for its rather aggressive support of blogging (by employees and nonemployees), despite the fact that a rather large blogging community exists and has for some time"

Strangely, there seems to be pretty unanimous agreement that there is a large number of bloggers out there, and some very good ones at that. Vincent McBurney's blog made special mention of Nishant Kaushik, Rob Smythe and Steven Chan for example.

And if we also consider the OTN Podcasts (my favourites being the ones that feature interviews with the "names" like Tom Kyte and Wim Coekaerts), it seems to me pretty evident that we actually have a pretty healthy community of content creators.

But when I look back at what Justin actually said, he was referring specifically to the lack of credit from the Web 2.0 community.

I think the OTN team - and Justin in particular - have been doing a fantastic job with the blogsphere and podcasts. But is that enough to make a stir in the Web 2.0 scene? Maybe a year or two ago it would have, but not any more. Sadly (for Justin) it is now just all too routine.

How many "Web 2.0 firsts" can OTN really claim? The harsh reality is that to make a splash and get some respect in the Web 2.0 community, Oracle needs to do much much more. And I don't think its about content or whether our blog etiquette is any good. Leadership and innovation is the name of the game in two important areas:

  • How to build more effective social networks and find new and better ways for this to deliver real benefit to the community. At present, I'm not sure we even deserve the "community" moniker .. it feels more like a public swimming pool we all just happen to go to, rather than a forum (in the Roman sense) where we meet, discuss and debate.

  • Invent and apply cutting-edge Web 2.0 techniques and technologies to support this goal. Yes, this IS about technology;) The Web 2.0 community is incredibly dynamic and creative at this point. Take blogs for example. They've been around for a while. Long enough for people to discover that for some things they are really good, but in other ways they suck (like trying to have a "conversation" in comments). So we now have sites like twitter, tumblr, virb and jaiku all experimenting with different approaches and trying to push the envelope in meaningful ways. Its this kind of creative experiementation that we haven't seen Oracle doing in the past ... with the one recent exception being the semantic web (hopefully an indicator of more great things to come). If Oracle really wants Web 2.0 street cred, OTN should be the playground where it is seen to be exploring the outer limits of what is possible - some of which may find its way back into the Fusion Middleware product line.

One notion we must definitely reject is that somehow we need to coach all the Oracle bloggers into becoming Web Celebs. To do so totally ignores (and destroys) the value of diversity in the community. Personally, I identify five "kinds" of web presence we should embrace:

  1. Leadership and Product Management as a "conversation". These are the celebs and thought leaders engaging with the community, but very much with their corporate responsibility at the fore. Funny thing is, I had the impression Oracle was doing much better in this regard, but it doesn't hold up to inspection. Mark Wilcox is one of the few getting close. Perhaps commercial considerations actually make it a very hard thing to do without tipping the competition too much, or just sounding like a mouthpiece for marketing.

  2. Web 2.0 as Shared Memory. I think one of the completely understated revolutions going on. As I've blogged before, and epitomised by the likes of Alejandro Vargas, this is all about using the web to finally Get Knowledge Management Right. These tend to be boring as hell to try and follow unless they are right in your niche. Scenario: One day, you'll be sweating a problem. Ask google, and thank your lucky stars that there are people around like Alejandro.

  3. Living your professional life online. Probably the most common approach today on OTN. Its a diary, scrapbook and log. You may find some really good gems, but there's no harm in being obscure in this category... you're just one of the community and its often done more for your own personal benefit.

  4. The personal/social presence. And yes there is room for all those who are part of the community (because they work at Oracle for example) but just want to talk about baseball!

  5. The audience. Let's not forget the vast majority of people who are searching and reading, but will never do much more that perhaps post a question to a forum or maybe a comment on a blog. For a whole range of reasons there's no value or motivation for them to go further. Don't try and make them blog. It won't work. But should we do everything possible to make sure they are well served by the community ... yes!! Numerically, they ARE the community.

Justin finished his initial post with a somewhat flippant "...maybe I shouldn't even care!". But perhaps he unwittingly hit the nail on the head.

It's a truism in business that if you forget who your customers are, you are doomed. Similarly, if OTN becomes preoccupied with impressing the Web 2.0 community as its primary mission, I'm pretty sure they will find success "inexplicably" elusive (and prove that all of Justin's denials of it being a PR conspiracy are lies!!).

Success will come most easily if OTN focuses on serving its real constituency first - the Oracle community of employees, users and developers. Do that well, and if OTN is indeed pushing the boundaries, then the Web 2.0 cred will be the just reward.

I guess in a way its like being cool. Try to be cool and you'll fail. You just are (or not, as the case may be).
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Do Oracle temp tables behave correctly under DBI?

Andon Tschauschev recently posted on perl.dbi.users concerning an apparent problem with temp tables "disappearing" between statements in the same session. He was using SQL Server via ODBC support.

The discussion and investigation continues, but it made me think to test if there's any similar strange behaviour with Oracle via DBI.

The temporary table model is somewhat different in Oracle, and centers around the "CREATE GLOBAL TEMPORARY TABLE.." statement. Temp table definitions are always global, but data is always private to the session, and whether data persists over a commit depends on whether the qualification "on commit preserve rows" or "on commit delete rows" is specified. is a simple test script to check out the behaviour. Good news is that all seems to be a-ok. The temporary table definition is persistent across sessions, but data is not, and importantly (..the point of Andon's investigation..) data is preserved across DBI calls within the same session as expected.

Sample output from the test program:

C:\MyDocs\Testers2\perl\dbi>perl orcl scott tiger
[1st connection] connect to orcl {AutoCommit => 1}:
[1st connection] create global temp table:
create global temporary table t1 (x varchar2(10)) on commit preserve rows
[1st connection] insert 3 rows of data into it: insert into t1 values (?)
[1st connection] should be 3 rows because we have "on commit preserve rows" set:
select count(*) from t1 = 3
[2nd connection] connect to orcl:
[2nd connection] should be 0 rows because while the table definition is shared, the data is not:
select count(*) from t1 = 0
[2nd connection] disconnect:
[1st connection] disconnect:
[1st connection] reconnect {AutoCommit => 0}:
[1st connection] should be 0 rows because this is a new session:
select count(*) from t1 = 0
[1st connection] drop the temp table: drop table t1
[1st connection] create global temp table:
create global temporary table t1 (x varchar2(10)) on commit delete rows
[1st connection] insert 3 rows of data into it: insert into t1 values (?)
[1st connection] should be 3 rows because we have autocommit off and not committed yet:
select count(*) from t1 = 3
[1st connection] should be 0 rows because now we have committed:
select count(*) from t1 = 0
[1st connection] disconnect:
[1st connection] reconnect {AutoCommit => 1}:
[1st connection] insert 3 rows of data into it: insert into t1 values (?)
[1st connection] should be 0 rows because we have autocommit on and "on commit delete rows" defined:
select count(*) from t1 = 0
[1st connection] disconnect:
[1st connection] reconnect {AutoCommit => 0}:
[1st connection] drop the temp table: drop table t1
[1st connection] disconnect:

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Burning DVDs with unicode filename support

I have quite an eclectic music collection, which grew considerably last year when I spent quite a bit of time in Tokyo. My favourite Sunday afternoon haunt was HMV @ Times Square, checking out the Shunjuku South indie chart. A suitcase of CDs later, I finally got around to ripping my entire CD collection and adding it my old ripped vinyl collection. All nicely organised, named and categorised in iTunes.

Feeling very pleased with myself, I wanted to archive all my hard work onto a set of DVDs, only to find that my (Windows-based) recording software baulked at the Japanese, Korean and Chinese characters in the folder and filenames.

My first thought .. should just need to change the file system format? But it didn't take long to discover it wasn't so simple. In fact, of the half a dozen different disk burning softwares I ended up trying out (including most of the "major" names), all but one failed to handle my babel of disks correctly.

So I'd like to spread the word. VSO CopyToDVD was the ONLY product that worked. It costs a few bucks to buy, but I just downloaded the limited-time trial and it passed the unicode test with flying colours. I didn't really poke around all its features, but it seems to pack the lot. And the fact that I could download it and bang out a few DVDs in short order pretty much sums things up.

I'll be buying it, and if you also need to burn disks with unicode file/folder names then I can recommend you check it out too.
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Getting environment variables on the Oracle database server

Say you have a connection to a remote Oracle Database server and want to get the ORACLE_HOME setting. Or any other environment variable for that matter. As far as I can see, Oracle doesn't provide any direct, supported way to do this.
In 10g however, there's an interesting procedure DBMS_SYSTEM.GET_ENV available which does the job:

set autoprint on
var ORACLE_HOME varchar2(255)
exec dbms_system.get_env('ORACLE_HOME',:ORACLE_HOME)

PL/SQL procedure successfully completed.


DBMS_SYSTEM is an undocumented/unsupported package. It mainly seems to be an internal utility function for debugging and event monitoring. The package itself is obfusticated, but we can discover a little about it from the data dictionary. The USER_PROCEDURES view lists the individual procedures available in the package:

And USER_ARGUMENTS can tell us about the parameters. For example:
order by POSITION;

------------- -------------- ---------- --------- ------

Given an environment variable name (VAR), GET_ENV returns its value (VAL). These values are coming from the system environment that belongs to the Oracle server process. If you have a dedicated server config, the environment is inherited from the tnslsnr process that spawned the server process. If shared server, then the environment is inherited from whatever process (PMON? PSP0?) that started the shared server process.
So an interesting poke around in some Oracle internals, but there are lots of reasons why you shouldn't use this trick in any production situation!

  • It is undocumented and unsuppported. The "get_env" method seems to have appeared in 10g, but there's also no guarantee it will be present in any future versions.

  • There are better solutions. SQL client code shouldn't directly depend on server environment variables.

  • Remember it is instance specific, and may be misleading in a RAC environment.

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