Friday, July 29, 2011

Messages from Readers

Mel sent this to me yesterday:
After following you for many years, talking to you at Oracle World and yourhome on one occasion in the '90's I am happy to report that I AM RETIRED.  No more Oracle, Peely-Squeely or troubleshooting response times.  I had gone from doing rpt (forerunner of Reports) all the way through the latest Forms and Reports (I started with Oracle 5).  I will miss all of it.
Ooooh, I am soooo jealous. :-)
And a few weeks ago, a player at the PL/SQL Challenge wrote:

Can you sell me a book please? I just took, and probably failed miserably, an assessment for a dream-job. I am a generalist in PL/SQL, and just do not have exposure to many of the higher level PL/SQL packages. The assessment reminded me of your quizzes. Your quizzes are OK for learning this sort of stuff but sort of out of context; I would like more of an overview and I don't want just documentation, but explanations of why you would want to use such and such a package (as opposed to using some other package). 
So I sent this player a link to my books, and a week later I received this note:

Last week I asked you to sell me a book. After reading the first 100 pages of your book covered in ants, I have decided you should put a link up "about yourself" and then have links to your new books on amazon. Your book is really great. Really readable! 
I really liked this last note. I don't want to sound boastful, but O'Reilly has sold several hundred thousand copies of the "ants book" (aka, Oracle PL/SQL Programming). So it's kind of cute that this reader urges me to get the word out "about myself" and my books.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Latest PL/SQL Challenge championship playoff results

We just held the 6th quarterly championship playoff at the PL/SQL Challenge. 34 players competed, answering five tough quizzes.It takes a lot to qualify for the playoff: you must rank in the top 25 over the entire quarter (and some 60 quizzes); your percentage correct must be very high; or you are selected in a wildcard process that still requires a high level of play.

You will find the results and rankings below. Congratulations to all players, of course, but let's give a special round of applause to our top three players:
  • Gary Myers (#1), who also ranked #2 in the last playoff and who wins a US$250 gift card. His first place ranking is especially impressive given the short time Gary took to answer the questions.
  • Chris Saxon (#2), who wins a US$175 gift card
  • João Barreto (#3), who wins a US$100 gift card
Good luck to everyone in the quizzes for Q3 2011 - I hope to see you in the next playoff!

Rank Name Country Total Time Total Score
1Gary MyersAustralia11 mins 21 secs2848
2Chris SaxonUnited Kingdom19 mins 32 secs2734
3João BarretoPortugal15 mins 06 secs2598
4Viacheslav StepanovRussia19 mins 57 secs2551
5Frank SchraderGermany19 mins 50 secs2353
6Ludovic SzewczykBelgium18 mins 35 secs2328
7Siim KaskEstonia18 mins 53 secs2322
8james suCanada16 mins 28 secs2321
9kowidoNo Country Set19 mins 49 secs2254
10Mike PargeterUnited Kingdom16 mins 41 secs2216
11Sean StuberUnited States20 mins 00 secs2150
12Randy GettmanUnited States18 mins 58 secs2146
13Filipe SilvaPortugal18 mins 04 secs2139
14owbegUkraine15 mins 48 secs2109
15Dalibor Kova Croatia18 mins 37 secs2053
16Jeff KempAustralia11 mins 38 secs1942
17macabreRussia19 mins 41 secs1931
18Theo AsmaNetherlands14 mins 48 secs1829
19Mojibul HoqueBangladesh03 mins 57 secs1821
20xtenderRussia04 mins 32 secs1809
21Kevan GellingIsle of Man18 mins 28 secs1781
22Anna OnishchukIreland17 mins 12 secs1706
23DikkieDickNetherlands13 mins 58 secs1696
24Alexander PolivanyUkraine20 mins 00 secs1675
25mentzel.iudithIsrael20 mins 00 secs1575
26Marc ThompsonAustralia19 mins 39 secs1557
27QBelgium16 mins 12 secs1551
28cleeUnited States17 mins 56 secs1441
29NickLUnited Kingdom19 mins 55 secs1402
30Pavel ZemanCzech Republic20 mins 01 secs1375
31Gerry171United States19 mins 00 secs1345
32Rajesh VenkataramaniIndia16 mins 43 secs1341
33RosemaryUnited States18 mins 38 secs727
34Jerry BullUnited States18 mins 47 secs40

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Special $49.95 One-month Subscripton PL/SQL Channel

I announced availability of the PL/SQL Channel several months ago: 27+ hours of recorded trainings on the Oracle PL/SQL language, available at the PL/SQL Channel and covering many (but admittedly not yet all) features of the PL/SQL language. At $395 per year per developer for unlimited access to all this content, the PL/SQL Channel is the most cost-effective use of your training dollars for PL/SQL developers, with much greater short- and long-term impact than one-time, instructor-led trainings.

I have also found, however, that many developers (or their managers) are reluctant to pay a subscription fee for a whole year, when their training budgets are very tight and they are not sure they will be using the PL/SQL Channel videos for such an extended length of time.

We have decided, therefore, to offer access to the PL/SQL Channel for 30 days for just $49.95. Yes, that's right - for less than $2 per day you can access dozens of PL/SQL videos with detailed trainings, plus their supporting presentation documents and code. This special price will be available through the end of September 2011.
We are also continuing our free, 30 day trial of the PL/SQL Channel (limited, however, to viewing of just five videos).

To start your free trial of the PL/SQL Channel, click here.

To order your $49.95 subscription to the PL/SQL Channel, click here.

Note: the thirty-day period starts on the day you purchase your subscription.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Quick guide to recent PL/SQL Challenge quizzes

For those of you who have not yet started visiting the PL/SQL Challenge website regularly, I thought I'd offer this guide to recent quizzes.

Oracle PL/SQL Quizzes

In the past week (11 July - 16 July), 972 Oracle technologists were busy answering quizzes and exploring the library of past quizzes.

Played on 11 July 2011: When a cursor is opened, Oracle identifies the set of data that satisfies the query. As long as that cursor remains open, that dataset is not affected by any changes that are made (committed or not) to the tables from which that data is retrieved.

Played on 12 July 2011: When working with nested tables and varrays, you must initialize the collection and extend the collection to make room for elements in the collection. Under some circumstances, however, Oracle will automatically extend the collection for you.

Played on 13 July 2011: Use INITCAP and NLS_INITCAP to easily convert a string so that the first letter of each new word (alphanumerics separated by "white space") is upper-cased.

Played on 14 July 2011: Use the LIMIT clause with FETCH BULK COLLECT to place an upper limit on the number of rows retrieved (and therefore PGA memory consumed) with each fetch.

Played on 15 July 2011: You can define functions to execute in parallel, as part of a parallel query. This can be accomplished with an explicit PARALLEL_ENABLE clause in the function header. Oracle can also implicitly determine that a schema-level function can be executed in parallel.

We also recently started up APEX and SQL quizzes in July.....

Oracle Application Express Quizzes

Played on 2 July 2011: It is possible to make an alternative report the initial settting for the Interactive Report page in several ways. What you see in the Interactive Report can also be changed through the url.

Played on 9 July 2011: The developer must be careful regarding timing when referencing session state.

SQL Quizzes

Played on 2 July 2011: Use the ALL comparison condition to easily apply a WHERE clause predicate to a set of values or a subquery.

Played on 9 July 2011: Beginning in version 11 select statements support the PIVOT clause for easy pivoting of result sets.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A conversation with Dick Morris' "assistant"

Dick Morris is doing robocalls to save the country from Barack Obama.

Morris provided (in secrecy) advice to good, old Bill Clinton on how to work with Republicans. And his favorite sexual fetish is toe sucking. Hey, to each his own.

And now Dick is calling "conservative leaders" in communities around the country to enlist them in his "revolt" (name of new book) against Obama and his "socialist" policies.

That is hilarious on several levels. First, Obama is (to my mind, sadly) very distant from any sort of socialist. He is a status quo politican trying to hold the line against both real left wing change and right wing craziness.

Second, Dick had his robots call me. Conservative leader? Wow. That must be some list they are working with.

Well, I decided to take and stay on the call. It was lots of fun!

He gave his recorded, vapid spiel (he actually said that he believes his book will be the single most important tool to defeat Obama. Now, that's arrogance.) and then asked me to stay on the line so I could take a survey with his "assistant." I stayed on. A real, live woman came on the line.

"Are you Dick Morris' assistant?" I asked her brightly.

Pause. "Um, well, I guess I am one of his assistants." OK.

So then the "survey" began. "Which Republican President do you like best?"

I am sure they were fishing for Reagan. I said: "Abraham Lincoln."

Pause. "Oh, well, that's the first time I've heard that."

"Really?" I replied with amazement in my voice. "I mean, he is like the original, great Republican president! Abolished slavery! That's hard to beat!"

She agreed tentatively and we moved on.

She then asked me a question about which was really a diatribe about Obama's policies and how he helps Muslims more than he helps Americans.

"Really?" I asked. "Cause he's sure been helping Americans a lot, all that money in the stimulus plan...what's he been doing for Muslims?"

"Uh, well, I don't really know, but..." and she gathered herself together... "Muslims can come to this country and think they just get medical care for free. No other countries do that."

"Really? I thought there were a bunch of European countries - I guess they're kind of socialist - where if you get hurt, you go to a hospital and they just take care of you. That sounds great to me!"

Then she said something about government deciding what kind of health care we can get. To which I replied: "That sounds like my HMO. You've got insurance company bureaucrats deciding whether or not I can get a procedure done. They're not doctors. It drives me crazy!"

"I know what you mean," she said.

There: just goes to show matter the political divide, everyone hates insurance companies and HMOs.

Needless to say, she didn't get a donation from me.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Government of the people, by the people, for the people? All gone....

That's a great line (from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address) and I daresay that many Americans instinctively believe in it....but I also would betcha that very few Americans believe it is true.

I can still remember the night that Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter. We sat around in shock. How could this clown have won?

And then the latest cycle of the onslaught by the rich and powerful against...everyone else...started again in this country. Reagan and his cohorts followed an astonishingly simple formula:
  • No one likes to pay taxes.
  • Everyone has a gripe about the government.
  • So blame the government for all our problems.
  • Increase cynicism and distrust of citizens for their government.
  • Then push hard to cut taxes (mostly those on the rich) because our government will only misuse those funds.
  • Then with reduced revenues, we have to cut back on services to our citizens.
  • Those citizens get even more unhappy with the government and so they agree to more tax cuts, more cuts in service...and...
The rich get richer, the middle class disappears, the poor...well, they are mostly invisible in our "great nation" in any case.

And so we come to 2011: Bush and Obama gave so much of our money away to bankers and Wall Street (with no strings attached), they got us into and keep us in wars of choice that suck up hundreds of billions of our tax dollars, and almost every Congressperson is primarily beholden to lobbyists and "donors" (read: bribes), that, gee whiz, so sorry, but there just isn't any money for health care, our roads, our children, our name it.

Today, the Chicago Tribune reports that the House of Reps has voted to end a program to test our produce for deadly bacterium like E. coli. Just weeks after an outbreak in Germany killed 35 people. This program costs $4.5M a year. Small change, a pittance, to protect our population. Why would they do this?

Ah, because the Produce Marketing Association has lobbied hard against it. "Unnecessary recalls", excessive regulation, blah, blah, blah.

This is a truly sucky Fourth of July. Our soldiers continue to die (and continue to kill, both innocents and combatants) in poorly planned wars with limited public support. Our government has been hijacked by people who hate our government and don't give two shits about our citizenry, our children, our future. They just care about lining their pockets. And we, the people, watch our country go down the drain, leaving behind millionaires and billionaires who will continue to do selling their stuff to growing middle classes in other nations.