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UKOUG TEBS Conference 2010 – Monster update post!

It’s been a while since I wrote in my blog, sorry! (My hobby of cross-stitching took over when I was stitching a sampler for the birth of my first nephew and hasn’t really stopped! I know, excuses excuses…)

Anyway, I went along to the UKOUG TEBS Conference 2010 and I really enjoyed it. Here is a brief summary of what I remember (which in itself will be a good test of how well a) I listened and b) the quality of the presentations!)

Day 0

I turned up in Birmingham on Sunday evening, which was later than I had planned, due to having to work on the Sunday (big migration project; I think I’ll blog more on this later!).

I eventually managed to finish working just by the deadline I set myself, and hopped on the train. Thankfully there was no snow where I live, so all the trains were still running! This was sadly not the case for lots of other attendees, who had to battle severe transport issues in order to make the journey.

Once I’d sorted myself out at the hotel, Lisa Dobson and Niall Litchfield came and collected me and took me to a pub somewhere in the Food/drink court area just over the canal from the ICC. I’d never properly met either Lisa or Niall before, but Twitter has a lot to answer for *{;-)

I was fairly shy and didn’t mingle at all, but fortunately I knew several people who came over to chat, so that was nice! What I like most about these sorts of events is that people are really friendly and happy to chat to anybody, even though they might not know them. Very inclusive, even though I was sort of gatecrashing! *{;-)

Day 1

I started off by attending Tom Kyte’s “What’s New in Oracle Database Application Development” session, which was interesting as always. Judging from the lack of notes I took, I must have known about most of the things he mentioned – thankfully, he’s an engaging speaker, so this was certainly not a problem!

He even seemed to have taken on board one of my complaints from last year – there was a lot less glaring red in his presentations (lots of bright red areas in last year’s slides did unpleasant things to my eyes!). Since I didn’t complain directly to him, I can only assume that I wasn’t the only one who had a problem, or he decided on a style change (probably the latter!).

Next came Marco Gralike’s “XML Indexing Strategies – Choosing the right index for the right job” session. I was interested in this one because we use XMLTYPE columns in one of the databases I’ve taken over the maintenance of in the past year, and I’m not too au fait with XML!

I didn’t really understand that much of the presentation, as a lot was geared towards 11g XMLTYPE options, plus my general ignorance of XML, but I did scribble down a lot of notes, and at least I’m aware that there are various options out there when we finally move to 11g (we only just moved from 9i to 10g on some of our databases!).

I have a feeling that this is the kind of thing that will slot into place the more I learn of the subject, and I may well have “Ahhhh, so *that’s* what Marco meant!” moments in time to come!

I had a choice to make with the next session – Graham Wood’s “Oracle ‘Hidden’ Features: Features You Probably Didn’t Know About and are FREE” or Jonathan Lewis’s “The beginners’ guide to becoming an expert”. Tough decision, but eventually I went with Jonathan.

Again, I didn’t take many notes, which, if I recall correctly, was mainly because Jonathan had SQL heavy slides and was talking about various ways of improving performance.

At the end of Jonathan’s session (at least, I think it was this session!), Andrew Clarke (aka APC) somehow recognised me and introduced himself to me (he was behind me – I recall Rob van Wijk doing the same thing to me the previous year, coincidentally in the same hall! I’m not sure what that says about me…! *{;-) ). Andrew is someone I know from the OTN Forums, so it was a pleasure to be able to put a name to the face (although sadly, I’m not sure I’d recognise him if I met him again, stupid memory! *slaps side of head*).

After lunch, I went to see Alex Nuijten’s “Analytic Functions Revisited”, which I thought was an excellent presentation, especially if you weren’t already aware of them. Seeing as Alex is another OTN Forum regular and I was feeling brave, I decided to hang around afterwards to introduce myself. I was glad I did; he’s a thoroughly decent chap *{:-D

My last session of the day was Cary Millsap’s “Oracle Extended SQL Trace Data for Developers and Performance Analysts”. I managed to make copious notes for this one, which I found interesting and informative. I meant to go back to work and immediately make use of some of the tools that were mentioned, but, um, I still haven’t got round to doing that yet!

After hanging around for a while, I decided that I had to go back to my hotel as I wasn’t feeling well (bah, why must this be part of my conference experiences?!) so I sadly missed the UKOUG Pantomime, and missed seeing Doug Burn’s Movember shave off. I also had to log into work and catch up / fix some bugs.

Day 2

I woke up early on the Tuesday, and thankfully felt much better. I headed down to see Martin Widlake’s presentation, which had a start time of 8.45am. Sadly, Martin was late, and consequently was not at his best. I thought the presentation content was excellent, so it was a shame that Martin wasn’t able to present it at his best.

After Martin’s session (and a bit of commiseration), I went to see Tom Kyte’s “What do I really need to know when upgrading?” session. Seeing as I was right in the middle of a project to migrate from 9i Linux to 10g Solaris, I thought this would be useful. Unfortunately, Tom was discussing 11g, so it wasn’t ultimately useful for my project, but I did glean a lot of information that will be useful when we do eventually move to 11g.

After lunch, I headed to Jonathan Lewis’s “Co-operating with the database” presentation, where I was a little early. Whilst I was waiting around, I got a tap on the shoulder, which turned out to be the wife of an ex-colleague of mine. How on earth she recognised me, I have *no* idea! I couldn’t have done that if you paid me, but apparently she’d seen my photo on my facebook page, as her husband is a friend of mine there. Mucho bizarro!

Jonathan’s session was interesting and covered Bind variables, histograms, partitioned tables and adaptive cursor sharing, as well as examples. Most of which, I already knew, but he has a knack of explaining things very clearly.

After this, I headed off to see Robyn Sands’ presentation on Instrumentation. This was very clearly explained, and had information about some tools which, again, I meant to research but…

It was at the end of this session that Niall Litchfield spotted me – I was sat on my own a couple of rows back from the front of the stage so that I could see the slides properly – and he convinced me to join him and others at the front of the stage. I felt like I was surrounded by royalty, as I was now sat with what I would term “famous” (at least in the Oracle community) people. I know Niall will probably pshaw this, but that’s how I felt (and would still feel!).

The next session was Graham Wood’s “How to build and unscalable system”, which took us through some of the common problems that cause unscalable systems. He was very clear and easy to listen to.

Next was Randalf Geist’s live troubleshooting session (part 1), which took us through some problems and what you would do to investigate/fix them. Sadly, I found this to be quite a “dry” presentation, and by the end of it, my brain was somewhat fried – conference overload!

Afterwards, Niall, Doug Burns, Martin Widlake and I headed down into Birmingham to a pub (quelle surpise, huh?!) where I think we bumped into someone whose name I can’t recall (Rob?). An entertaining evening was had, but sadly I had to leave early so that I could log into work (boo!!).

Day 3

My first session of the day was Mark McGill’s “Common Causes of SQL Performance Regression and their Remedies”. Once again, this was something that I already knew quite a bit about, but I found it useful as it consolidated my knowledge and gave me a list of things to think about when I next come across a problem SQL statement

After that, I went to a very entertaining debate between Jonathan Lewis and Tony Hasler on “Does Oracle Ignore Hints?”. Jonathan was arguing that no, Oracle doesn’t ignore hints and Tony was arguing the opposite.

I have to say that I was firmly on the side of Jonathan throughout the entire debate, but Tony did come up with some interesting situations for Jonathan to debunk. I thoroughly enjoyed the light hearted banter that took place throughout!

At lunchtime, I met up (finally!) with Ben “Munky” Burrell, another OTN forum regular. At some point during the proceedings, Alex N and Rob vW also came and joined us – I definitely think that we could set up our own “OTN SQL & PL/SQL forum” table at the next UKOUG Tebs conference and take on SQL and PL/SQL questions that people might have!

My final session of the day was Jason Arneil’s “Taking .uk all the way to 11: A migration war story”. I think this was one of my favourite sessions of the conference – he took us through the steps taken to upgrade Nominet’s databases to 11g (testing, testing and yet more testing!), and told it in an entertaining style. I thought this was the perfect wind-down to the conference.

To summarise my experience of the 2010 UKOUG Tebs Conference:

  • I’d sorted out my glasses beforehand – I was better able to see the slides without straining my eyes this time!
  • I knew more people this time, which helped me feel more confident and enabled me to introduce myself to yet more people.
  • I made sure I didn’t overload myself with presentations – saw quite a few the first day, but less on the other two days.
  • I came prepared to learn a *lot*!
  • I discovered that I’m really recognisable to people who’ve never met me before.
  • I had fun!