Monday, May 30, 2011

Tax cuts for the rich - how ridiculous, and some advice for the President

Anyone concerned with saving, strengthening, preserving out democracy (you pick the word, based on your analysis of how degraded that democracy currently is) will agree that we must stop the persistent, immoral and illegal-if-the-wealthy-did-not-write-the-laws redistribution of wealth from poor and middle classes to the richest tiny percentage.

Looks like President Obama is going to try again to build support to reinstate taxes on the well-to-do. I sure hope he does a better job this time of defining the issue and generating outrage.

The choice should be very starkly presented: "Which is more important to you: that children in this country do not suffer or that millionaires and billionaires sock away another million or billion?"

Unfortunately, from what I've read I think Obama is going to repeat an earlier mistake: he will call for cancellation of tax cuts for Americans earning $250,000 or more.

If he sticks with the $250K boundary, I fear he (and we) will lose the battle once again. The problem is that this number is (or at least sounds) too low; it sounds, in fact, like an amount that lots and lots of people in the middle class used to make or feel they could make at some point. In other words, that number makes too many people feel like it could hurt them just as they start to succeed.

I urge President Obama (and we all know that he listens closely to what I have to say) to push up that number. Say instead:

"Let's reinstate taxes for anyone earning at least $500,000 a year."

I believe this one change could cause a significant shift in the way most Americans perceive this issue, and it will make it much harder for the rich, who are strangling our nation and bringing harm to our children through their disgusting greed, to defend themselves and the laws they bribe our Congresspeople to pass.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

PL/SQL Challenge Version 2 Now Available!

We upgraded the PL/SQL Challenge website to version 2 this weekend. Check out the PL/SQL Challenge blog for more details on the features of this release.

We (myself, my son, Eli, Paul Broughton of Apex Evangelists, Scott Stegemann, with crucial assistance from  Dimitri Gielis and John Scott, principals of Apex Evangelists) have been working on this version for over six months. It involved a very thorough, interesting but also challenging redesign and reconstruction of both backend and frontend code.

In the process, we've put together a very flexible and generic platform to deliver quizzes for any technology, in virtually any format (single quiz, multiple quizzes, T/F, multiple choice, polls, etc.). My plan is to continue evolution of the platform into QaaS (Quiz as a Service), so that a single development team could use it to test and deepen understanding of their own application; vendors can use it to offer quizzes for their tools (I think a weekly quiz on Toad for Oracle would be immensely powerful), and so on.

The rollout has gone, well, sort-of-smoothly. Lots of issues to address, but no calamities. It will probably take another week to truly settle into the new version - partly because the revamping involved not only a massive number of new end user features but also a complete transformation of the way we manage the application "behind the scenes."

In versions 1.X, we had a set of basic data management pages for our metadata tables. Beyond that, I essentially used Toad for Oracle and SQL-PL/SQL scripts to manage the various tasks (set up new competitions, generate images, award prizes, etc.).  This was a drag for two reasons: took up too much of my time and made it impossible for me to hand off tasks to Eli.

So in version 2, we took several big steps towards improving visibility into the state of our data and also the ability to manage that data outside of an editor. We created, for example, a "competition at a glance" calendar that I can use to quickly check on the status of the quizzes and go directly to the appropriate data management screen. Here's the content of one week from the calendar:

And there's so much more....but I have run out of time to share my enthusiasm. I have to finish up the fifth quiz for the upcoming playoff, as well as set up five quizzes for next week.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Final test period for PL/SQL Challenge version 2

The PL/SQL Challenge development team has been working hard, hard, hard for the last five months (wow, is it that long already?) to create version 2 of the PL/SQL Challenge website. We plan to upgrade over the weekend of 21 May; in the meantime, I encourage to visit to get an early glimpse of the new design and functionality, and give us feedback.

More details on the test program may be found here.

Of course, it's taken a lot longer than I originally planned to put the site "back together." I say that because this version of the Challenge required an extensive refactoring of the table design and supporting code. That was really quite a lot of fun to do, but oh my a very intensive process.

The result is that we have taken a giant step towards transforming the website into a platform for delivering quizzes and tests: essentially, QAAS - "quiz as a service". This means that in the short run we can offer quizzes in a much more flexible manner (and also extend the site to offer quizzes on different technologies, like SQL and APEX). In the longer run, players will be able to set up their own competitions, with their own content.

For example, you could build and offer a series of quizzes to your development team about your own application, best practices, standards, etc. We're not there quite yet, but we are close.

So I hope you find some time to check out the test site; I look forward to your feedback.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Kaleidoscope11 - the Can't Miss Conference

I would like to think that anyone reading my newsletter, anyone engaged in Oracle development of any sort, would be well aware of ODTUG's annual Kaleidoscope conference. ODTUG is one of my favorite user group organizations, and not just because they have sponsored an annual Oracle PL/SQL conference for the last five years. In this era of "monster" conferences, like Oracle Open World, ODTUG has maintained its focus on developers and its intimate engagement between participants and speakers. If you can only attend one conference this year, I strongly encourage you to consider Kaleidoscope11.

Tom Kyte, Senior Technical Architect at Oracle Corporation, will be presenting Efficient PL/SQL - Why and How to Use PL/SQL to Its Greatest Effect and A Lot about Binding. I'll be presenting as
well, on Best Practices for PL/SQL Development in APEX.  Click here for a full list of database development sessions.

In addition to these sessions, Tom,Cary Millsap of Method-R Corporation, and I will participate in a ninety-minute interactive panel discussion on database performance, coding excellence, and performance optimization. With more than thirty-five Oracle ACE Directors presenting at Kscope11, participants will have the opportunity to meet and talk with experts from around the world. Other highlights include five full-day symposiums, an opening keynote  by Joey Asher, author of Even a Geek Can Speak, and the grand
on board the famous Queen Mary. All sessions, symposiums, hands-on training, and events are included in the registration fee.

And to express their undying devotion to the PL/SQL community, ODTUG has graciously offered a $100 discount off the registration fee to all PL/SQL developers. Simply enter "PLSQL" for the discount code when you register.

Hope to see you there!