Home › Monthly Archives › December 2009

UKOUG Tech and EBS Conference – what have I learnt for next time?

So, UKOUG Tech and EBS 2009 Conference was the first conference I’ve ever been to. I headed out to it full of nerves over whether I’d get lost, have the right materials to take notes with, etc, so I thought I’d write a list of things I’d do differently next year. It may come in handy for next year’s first-timers, who knows?!

So, for my next UKOUG conference, I will:

  • make plans as to when to meet up with people I know, if they’re also going to be attending, especially for lunch and in the evenings
  • compare agendas with said people
  • talk to my optician re. what I can do to make it easier to see the slides; different glasses just for the long distance viewing, maybe?
  • make sure I have plenty of ibuprofen and paracetamol at hand, just in case!
  • pick up the conference goody-bag prior to my first presentation – do this by making sure you go round the entire exhibition hall, as this time, they were handed out at the very back!
  • not worry about having to buy a separate notebook; one is included in the conference goody-bag
  • try not to fill every available slot with a presentation; it will be information overload!
  • try to get enough sleep!
  • be prepared to be overwhelmed and try to take it in step when that happens
  • make much more effort to overcome my shyness and *talk* to more people, and especially the people I have talked to online that I really want to say hi to!

Things that I already did which turned out to be really good ideas:

  • wear comfortable shoes
  • read (and comment on!) lots of blogs throughout the year from different people (to a) gain a wider perspective and b) get familiar with the wider Oracle community)
  • become friends with someone who has been to previous conferences and knows a few of the regular attendees
  • come prepared to learn
  • follow the signs to the halls and pay attention to the most excellent and helpful ICC staff!
  • explore the area before the conference starts
  • Twitter like mad and use the appropriate hash tags! This is a useful means of introducing yourself to other conference attendees and also the wider Oracle community *{;-)
  • work out what sessions you’re going to attend prior to the conference start; having a plan of action for the day in advance helps a lot!
  • be prepared to enjoy yourself!

All in all, I had a great time and I learnt a lot. I also met lots of people that I’d never dreamed I would actually meet, and hopefully have begun broadening my network of contacts!

I would wholly recommend attending the UKOUG Tech and EBS Conference, and would happily go again next year, I get the opportunity to go again!

UKOUG Tech and EBS Conference – the writeup, part 3! (Wednesday)

Wednesday – #ukoug_tebs Day 3
So, what with Tuesday evening’s shennanigans, I decided to give the first presentation of Wednesday (Joze Senegacnik’s “Execution Plan Stability in Oracle 11g”) a miss, and get more of a lie in. As I had packed before bed, there wasn’t much to do after I’d got up (there was method to my madness after all!), so more time in bed! *{;-)

Randolf Geist – Everything you always wanted to knw about FIRST_ROWS_N but were afraid to ask
Randolf is another person that I know and respect from the OTN SQL and PL/SQL forum, and I had been looking forward to attending this presentation ever since I’d booked to come to the conference.

I’ve never really used the ALL/FIRST_ROWS hint before, although obviously I knew about their existence beforehand; I’ve never needed to do Top-N or pagination queries before, and ALL_ROWS (the default) has always been sufficient for me, especially since I’ve usually needed… all the rows!

Randolf stated right at the beginning that he’d intended to reveal everything about how the ALL_ROWS_N hint/optimizer mode worked, but that he’d had problems with the results, which caused problems with his theories. I thought this was a fairly odd way to start the presentation, but after a while, it became clear that this was still clearly an area that Randolf was still experimenting with, to fine tune his theories.

I found it a fascinating insight into how one might go about working out what the database internals are actually doing, as well as learning more about the ALL_ROWS_N hint/mode. I did want to go over to introduce myself afterwards but unfortunately someone else had already had a similar idea, and I didn’t like to barge in. I should’ve gone up and stood waiting (hind-sight, oh how you’re 20-20!); how much does it cost to just say “Hi, I’m Boneist from the forums, just wanted to say ‘hi’ and great presentation!”?! D’oh. Next time, definitely.

Rob van Wijk – All about grouping
Poor Rob had developed a cold by the time he came to present *{:-( However, he managed not to sniffle at all (impressive!) despite sounding more and more full of cold as the presentation went on! My heart went out to him and I kept wanting to hand him a tissue, just in case he needed one!

The presentation was informative, and I’ve picked up a lot about how the grouping sets, cubes and rollups work as well as how they interact. Sounds like the optimizer still has a way to go on working out ways to identify cubes, given a mix of grouping sets, rollups etc. This was one of the presentations I was really looking forwards to, as I had always been confused about the extended grouping stuff. However, work wanted me to see if it was possible to do stuff in “my” database that currently gets done in another one further downstream in the lifecycle of our data, so I’d had to work out myself what the grouping sets, rollups etc is about. So, I knew a bit more about them than when I had originally booked to come to the conference.

The presentation clarified things for me, and I now feel confident in knowing how to use and manipulate grouping sets/rollups/cubes etc to try and get best performance out of them. Thanks Rob!

Again, Rob had people talking to him at the end of his presentation, so I left without talking to him *{:-( Still, at least we had met, so that wasn’t quite as bad as it could have been, but even so…

Wolfgang Breitling – Anatomy of a SQL Tuning session
I actually met Wolfgang at the Fire party on the Tuesday night, and he seemed like a really nice, down-to-earth kinda guy, although perhaps a little insulted that I’d only managed to skim read the paper of his that Doug had sent me a link to! (I didn’t have time to read it fully, but skim read it so I at least know to go should I need to use that information!) I’m not sure I managed to dig myself out of that particular hole, though. *{;-) I’d had this session in my agenda for a long while, so I wasn’t attending it just to make it up for my boo-boo of the previous night!

It took me a little while to click that we were taking a SQL statement that he had tuned and were going to run through what steps he had done (um, I blame my stupid headache for that!), but once it had, I sat back and enjoyed his demonstration. Feedback by cardinality; which sort of ties back to what Jonathan Lewis did in his presentation on Monday (“Writing Optimal SQL”) – I think a combination of using pictures to diagram the query plus this feedback by cardinality is a good place to start when trying to tune SQL statements; I shall certainly be using both methods to try and do that from now on.

I really enjoyed the session, even though the last step Wolfgang did was to use quite a specific set of hints to force the behaviour he wanted! Whilst I know that some hints are good if you know more about the data than the optimizer does (eg all_rows), I disagree with trying to force production code down one particular path, based on information that’s “correct” as of today – I think all that does is postpone the problem until tomorrow/next month/next year (delete as applicable).

However, I do understand the limits we all have to work under (upset users, irate managers, no time for investiaging proper fixes, etc, etc) and I guess hints really are the quick fix, albeit likely temporary!

The End
And that – as they say – is all, folks! The end of the conference!

I headed off back home, sad that it was all over, but glad to be going home and meeting up with my partner. Less happy to be heading back to work the following day, it has to be said! My 6am alarm was rather more of a shock than normal!

UKOUG Tech and EBS Conference – the writeup, part 2! (Tuesday)

Tuesday – #ukoug_tebs Day 2
Despite having promised myself an early night on the Monday night, it was quite late when I finally went to sleep, so I decided that I would give Bob Mycroft’s “Getting connected!” a miss and take advantage of a bit of a lie in, although in the end, I didn’t lie-in for long!

Tom Kyte – All about metadata; why telling the database about your schema matters
I found myself nodding a lot to what Tom was saying, as well as despairing at the 3rd party database we have <whisper>that doesn’t have any foreign keys</whisper>. Most of this presentation was reinforcing things that I’d hope most if not all database designers/developers/dba should already know, but I know from experience on the OTN SQL and PL/SQL forum that people consistently use the wrong datatypes (particularly dates; people seem to hate using the DATE datatype for some reason!).

One thing that was mostly new was the Dimensions thing. Whilst I do vaguely touch a snowflake schema in one of my databases, it really isn’t a datawarehouse, so I haven’t really needed to dig all that deeply into tuning it. But I now understand the Dimensions constraint thing better than I did, and it’s now there in my mental toolbox *{:-)

Connor McDonald – 11g features for Developers
Wow! This was incredibly faced paced and packed with humour! I’ve no idea how he managed it, given that he was also jetlagged! I really enjoyed this presentation, even though Connor thought it wasn’t all that great (?!?!), and I had trouble writing everything down in my notes, there was so much stuff!

Lots of things that I wasn’t aware of in 11g that sound like they’ll come in useful (eg. error logging in scripts; now that does sound useful… plus he mentioned 10g there, so I shall investigate when I get a moment!) and some that I already knew about (eg. virtual columns). Good stuff!

I’d definitely go watch Connor present again, even if it was in a subject area I had no interest in; he was amazing!

Afterwards, when I came out of the presentation, Rob van Wijk introduced himself to me, so I can at least say that I did meet one of the people I had really, really wanted to meet at UKOUG, albeit that I was a bit shellshocked from both presentations of the morning so wasn’t exactly at my best *{:-( I didn’t talk to him for as long as I would have liked, but I now have a face to go along with the name! (Rob is one of the people on the OTN SQL and PL/SQL forum that I have huge respect for and he always gives well thought-out answers and explanations. I am kicking myself that I didn’t chat longer with him *{:-( )

another pause in the proceedings
I was meant to be going to Jonathan Lewis’ “Introducing Partitions” but I gave this a miss, due to feeling information overloaded and also my eyes needed a break. So I headed to the lounge and pootled around for a while, having lunch etc, until the next presentation.

Julian Dyke – Vital Statistics
I have to say, I was disappointed by this presentation. I’d heard that Julian was a pretty good presenter, and I went along, expecting to learn a lot more about statistics than I already knew.

Unfortunately, what I got was something that more or less walked through the documentation, something that I have already done for myself. I was hoping for something that extended what the documents said and gave it context and meaning, but that was sadly lacking. Perhaps my fault for not having read the abstract clearly enough.

I did learn one thing, though, so not a total waste of time – copy stats. How on earth I’ve missed this procedure is anyone’s guess, but it will make copying stats from one partition to another easier than what I do at the moment (export the stats, faff around changing things in the stats table, reimport the stats to the intended partition)!

Chris Dunscombe – RAC – What’s the difference?
This was my last presentation of the day, and I was in two minds as to whether to stay for it or not, as I knew it was oriented towards DBAs, which I am most assuredly not *{;-) There was nothing else I wanted to see, and I had picked this one because it sounded like it might give me a basic idea of what’s involved in setting up RAC, should I ever become involved with working with RAC databases. In the end, I decided to stay (and no, the offer of chocolate that Chris gave us was not really an incentive for me to stay *{;-) ).

All I can say is, wow! I’m *so* glad I’m not a DBA; there’s a lot of server and storage considerations etc, and really, my brain is not geared for that territory! Still, I was glad that I stayed for this, as it did give me an overview of the kinds of things that would need to be thought about, and will allow me to help give the DBAs the right kinds of information if I’m ever involved in setting one up (from a development point of view, obviously!)

It was a good presentation – Chris managed to get people interacting, providing information etc which is not bad for that time of the day! I liked that Chris was able to take new ideas on board and run with that right in the middle of his presentation!

The Fire and Ice parties
So, after briefly (and I do mean that!) heading in to the meet the speakers bit and not seeing anyone I could talk to (only recognised Jonathan Lewis, and I really didn’t feel like I could just barge up and say “Hi! I think you’re fab!” when he was already in the middle of talking to someone else…) I went and hid for a while. I popped my head round the doors for the ice party, didn’t see anyone (again other than JL) that I recognised, felt sorry for the ladies stuck in the middle of tables, dressed up like loo roll covers and headed off to the fire party.

This had scalextric, pool tables, table football and random jugglers (who were *amazing*… I can just about manage 3 balls in a basic pattern for about 30 seconds, but they were making the balls do incredible things and just kept on going!), and after having a drink and wandering round watching people playing, I gave up and headed out into the foyer bit for the internet suite.

They had notebooks or whatever they’re called, and my goodness the writing was tiny! I ended up hunched over and peering at the screen (must have looked really odd!) just to be able to read the screen properly! Anyway, just before I was going to call it a day (it was cold in the foyer, brrr!), Doug showed up after having had a snooze. So I stuck like a limpet to his side for the rest of the evening and managed to meet and chat to loooooads of people! At one point, I was in a pub surrounded by all these big names of the Oracle community! Little ol’ *me*?!?!

Highlights were doing a spot of not-being-able-to-find-one-good-thing-to-say about a certain someone with a whole crowd of people, talking to Chris Dunscombe re. his presentation and how I got loads out of it (along with other things), meeting Alex Gorbachev after having bantered with him over Twitter and oooh, just about everything, actually!!

I bowed out of the pub early (at 1.15am?!) and headed back to my hotel, where I realised I needed to pack. Ended up procrastinating and didn’t go to sleep until about 2.30am! Whoops…

UKOUG Tech and EBS Conference – the writeup, part 1!

Sunday – arrival in Birmingham
After visiting the not-quite-in-laws for the weekend (and helping out – in the kitchen – at this year’s Shrewsbury Model Railway exhibition that my Great-Uncle Jeff started over 25 years ago. Sadly he died earlier this year, and so this year’s event was held in his memory), I arrived in Birmingham.

Driving in Birmingham is as bad as driving in Leeds! Thankfully, my other half was driving, but even so, the exits to take weren’t clear on the sat nav until, typically, we’d gone past! Thankfully, we only missed one junction, but there were some hairy moments as we tried to work out which lane we should be in, etc! T’other ‘alf deserves a medal! Anyway, once I’d been dropped off at the hotel, I decided to go exploing.

The hotel I stayed at (Copthorne; would recommend – very handy for food, German market and the ICC!) was very central; I discovered a cut through and ended up just outside the Paradise Forum. Intending to find
the ICC first, I decided to go through the, um, “forum” and when I got to the other side, the German market … distracted me somewhat! So, with some Chrstmas shopping done, I decided to give up my quest for things, and decided I’d check my iPhone to see if I could navigate myself to the ICC. I eventually got there, but the long way round (typical!) – it turned out that if I’d headed away from the “forum” towards the giant lit-up Ferris wheel, I’d have soon found the ICC!

Once I was happy with knowing where to go in the ICC, I headed back to the hotel and, along the way, found yet more German market stalls (including one with puzzles… I ended up buying 4!).

Monday – #ukoug_tebs Day 1

I made sure I got to the ICC in plenty of time to register before the First Timer’s Briefing, and whilst waiting for that to start, I went round the exhibition. I was too shy to actually stop and talk to people, plus I hate being pestered by random sales guys when I’m just browsing, so having not found anything that I felt I could legitimately talk about with the vendors, I just wandered past each stall quickly! *{;-)

First Timer’s Briefing
The first timer’s briefing was ok; telling us about the ICC, the staff, wear comfortable shoes, etc, etc and mentioned the free bag with agenda guide and other goodies that I’d somehow missed from the exhibition hall! So, when the session finished early, I headed straight back to pick up my bag before heading off to my first ever conference session – the keynote by David Callaghan.

David Callaghan Keynote
This was in hall 1 (biiiiiig lecture theatre stylee) and was quite full. We had a talk by the UKOUG chairman, Ronan, and someone whose name I forget (sorry, sorry) – Deborah, I think?. This was quite entertaining and light-hearted and went on for about 20 mins or so, before David was introduced.

David talked for a while about how the recession was affecting things, etc, and (should I really admit this?) I found it a bit dry and boring, and despite trying to listen, kept finding myself drifting off onto other thoughts (what’ll I have for dinner? when’s Tom going to appear? etc etc). I never have been too good at wading through all the marketing spiel *{;-) Aaaanyway, Ronan came back on after David had finished and there was a bit more banter, before Tom Kyte was introduced.

Tom Kyte Keynote – What are we still doing wrong?
Unfortunately, there was no break between the end of the keynote and Tom’s session, so people were forced to just get up and leave whilst Tom was standing at the podium. A bit distracting for him, I’m sure, although I know that Ronan has already taken this on board and I’m sure it’ll be done differently next time! Tom’s session was about things that we as developers are still doing wrong – it was thoroughly entertaining and useful (and yes, I had a few guilty winces…).

I could have sat and listened to Tom talk for longer, and indeed, it seemed like he had more to say, but unfortunately ran out of time. The only negative thing I would say about Tom’s presentation is that there was too much RED in the slides; it made my eyes hurt! (And, to be honest, my eyes were struggling with seeing the slides, even though I was fairly close to the front!).

pause in the procedings
I’d had a bit of a headache (which I don’t normally get!) on the Sunday, and by this point in the proceedings, it had returned and I wasn’t feeling brilliant. My eyes had struggled with the slides, and I don’t think it was a problem with the projecters or the screens, either. I’m long-sighted, amongst other things, but I struggle to focus at distances. My prescription could be improved for long distance vision, but this would reduce my near distance vision. Given that I need to be close to the things that I’m looking at when I read, sew, write, etc, and that I do more of this than I do staring at presentations on large screens, it’s a compromise I’ve had to make. Didn’t help my headfail though!

I was going to go to Carl Dudley’s “Constraints – for complex business rules and improved performance” presentation, but decided that I really, really needed to give my eyes a break, so I ended up wandering through the exhibition again, before flumping in the lounge area.

Graham Wood – The ASHes of time?
I went to this primarily because Doug has previously mentioned about ASH both as part of his “How I learned to love pictures” presentation, and separately when we were discussing a performance issue I was having, and it sounded like it would be a good session to learn more about it from an introductory level. And it was!

I picked up some useful tips and information from this, that when I finally persuade my team’s DBA’s to reset our Grid Control password, will come in very handy! And, of course, if I query the table myself! *{:-D

Jonathan Lewis – Writing Optimal SQL
By now, I was really struggling, as my head really was becoming fuzzy and painful, so I took some ibuprofen (which didn’t do a thing to help!). Still, managed to stick with it, and I was glad I did! This session by Jonathan took us through the decisions we need to think about when we write SQL, in order to come out with better plans.

Most of this was familiar to me, but not in such an organised fashion. The one thing I did pick out of this session that I will be applying at work is (and this is probably sooooo obvious, only I’ve never considered it!): to draw a diagram of the tables and how they relate to the number of rows generated, etc. You can then see pictorially which might be the best table to start with, and where to go next. Simple, but brilliant!

Tom Kyte – Top 10, no 11, new features of Oracle database 11gR2
Aaah, Mr Kyte (or “Uncle Tom” as I used to refer to him back when I first started learning PL/SQL etc, and I followed AskTom religiously. Actually, for the first year or two, that was the only thing I really knew about; and I found it invaluable as a learning aid – Tom is one of the best teachers around, IMHO!) again. This was a list of features that he wanted to bring to our attention that are new in 11gR2. Some of them I already knew about, but some were completely unfamiliar to me!

I’ve already had some ideas on how to improve my db app once the databases have been upgraded to 11gR2, whenever that might be! I may well be pestering our DBAs for that to be sooner rather than later! *{;-)

Still too much red in this presentation, which unfortunately did not help my poor achey head and eyes any!

Doug Burns – More Parallel Fun
I know that Doug was less than happy with this presentation, and to be fair, he did suffer from a touch of BluePeter-itis, as the demos that had been running happily for him when he ran them earlier in the day went veeeeeery sloooooooooow during the presentation.

I thought that the presentation was good, though, as I was able to keep up with the content and understand what Doug was saying (although perhaps the graphs could maybe have done with being animated, to highlight the fact that we were looking at slices of time, rather than the whole thing at once – my confusion was soon put to rest when he explained what it was representing, though!). Having attended this and an earlier presentation on parallel that he gave at work, I now feel much more confident in working with parallel. I may even try making some of our big queries run in parallel – something that I’d never really considered seriously!

Meet the Speaker
I headed briefly to this, but didn’t really have anything intelligent to say or ask, plus I really was feeling unwell by this point, so I decided the best thing to do would be to go back to the hotel, and have some rest. I wasn’t really thinking coherently by now, because I passed one of my friends that I’ve known for years now from a bulletin board system that I am a member of – he was eating alone in a restaurant *{:-(

If I’d been thinking properly, I would have arranged to have met up and gone to dinner or dragged him along with me when I would have tagged along with Doug and met the big hitters that were apparently about on Monday evening at the exhibition party/technical pubs. But it was not to be – sorry @Farkough *{:-(

I ended up walking round the city centre trying to find somewhere that was open so I could buy some paracetamol, once I’d worked up the motivation to leave the hotel room. Thankfully, Boots were doing late night opening, so I got some, and on the way back to the hotel, I passed a Pizza Hut and couldn’t resist the comfort-food factor!