Tuesday, June 29, 2010

New article in ODTUG Technical Journal

I am very proud to announce that in the latest ODTUG Technical Journal one of the articles is written by yours truly. It is all about the integration of Forms and APEX.
See this link. You have to be a member to download it (but I think you can become an Associated Member for free) - or you have to wait until the next release is out, then the one before will be freely accessible.

ODTUG: Monday

The day started with the General Session. There the ODTUG Board announced when en where the next Kaleidoscope will be held: At Long Beach, California! From June 26 to 30 2011. And you can even submit papers as from now! There is a link somewhere, and if I'll find it I'll add it to this post. Another remarkable thing was that the number of attendees this year was up with 50% to around 900! So ODTUG grows bigger and bigger every year - and so even getting more important in the Oracle world.
Next - and rather important - was the game...The Netherlands against Slovakia. We saw the match with a couple of other attendees, most of them Dutch, but also some other guys - but all supporting Holland And we won with 2-1, which was great. So in the next match we have to beat Brazil - which will be though!
Back to the stuff we all here for...
The first afternoon session was the "APEX 4.0 Keynote", where Mike showed all the cool new APEX 4.0 features for an interested audience of over 250 people (rough count). Nice to notice that even my name was mentioned when Joel answered a question about upgrading to 4.0: "If your name is not Roel and do not live in The Netherlands, you'll be fine". ..pointing out to a bug a discovered only 15 minutes after 4.0 was released - BTW that bug has been fixed the same day!
For the next hour I was the ambassador for Anjo Kolk's session on "Accessing databases from Google Apps" Completely off the APEX topic, but nevertheless very interesting.There seems to be an App store like marketplace for Google apps - really didn't know that. Anjo showed how to extend a Google spreadsheet by accessing data from a mySQL server using jdbc. An Oracle extension is in the making. You can also get data from your database using import functions.These functions are insecure, but if you want a secure connection - and are willing to pay for it - you can use the Secure Data Connector. That SDC uses tunnelling via the Google Tunnel Servers.He also showed how to query (and update) data in a Google database with the Google feedserver. Getting this working is not that easy, requires some tweaking and modifying XML files, but the result is nice. You can also use PL/SQL functions that return JSON to feed Google Visualizations and show these graphs in iGoogle - and so you create your own dashboards on the web, using real live data from your database!
In the next session, called "APEX; A window to the Oracle Database", Anton Nielsen demoed how to use some cool advanced database features in APEX. Like Oracle Text (with "smart searching"), Analytic functions, Intermedia for images (thumbnail generation, rotation, capturing metadata etc) , external tables and VPD. The key of all this is, if you can do it in the database you can do it in APEX as well!
During the Sundown Sessions - a sort of Q&A session - a lot of good questions where asked and answered. The main announcement was that the APEX Listener was released just that afternoon!
After the reception (more food and drinks), there was a poker game organized in the bar. I joined the hard core players, and managed to end as third (and it actually was my first real poker game ever!), So in the end I got my 20 bucks entrance fee back! It was a lot of fun - and we stayed up until .. let me say ... late.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sunday's APEX Symposium ... from A to X (or Z)

This morning I started with an early walk to the zoo. With the idea in mind that it might be not so hot around 8 or 9 AM. But that was wrong... Even at that time of day it is hot. The temperature would rise to a 37 C this day!
But the zoo is very worthwhile. Not that I have seen all of it, because the whole track is about 15 kilometers... I especially went to see the Giant Panda's. Never seen them before, but they are just as cute and adorable as you would expect. After the zoo I went to the National Cathedral, one of the biggest churches in the US. I thing it is a sort of copy of the St. Peter in Rome - and I heard that Darth Vader is on one of the colored glass windows (didn't see it though). Beautiful church with a number of "Dan Brown" style crypts below.
Around 10:30 I got back to the conference to pick up on the ongoing APEX Symposium. At that moment Dan McGhan was talking about Dynamic Actions and PlugIns. Especially his "recurring event" PlugIn is rather cool. Next in line was Doug Gault, talking about performance. Takeaway: Think about the number of rows you'll return, the pagination style of the reports and the sorting options you offer, because those might have a performance penalty!
After a (good!) lunch Scott Spendolini showed how to create a neat user interface. Just start from scratch and keep your templates as clean and minimal as you need. Only that way you will create an applications that conforms to the look-and-feel. All the styling should be done by CSS, only define the structure (based on DIVs) in the template. Dietmar Aust was next about printing with Jasper Reports. You can use Jasper as a cheap (as in free) alternative to BI Publisher. It is not as easy as BIP, but hey, everything has it's price!.
Then Anton Nielsen talked about security. One good tip was that you should secure (set an authorization on) your Page Processes and Pages before you do that on the buttons and links that call these processes and pages. If you do it in that order you lower the risk of forgetting something. Another nice tip was, if you use your own authentication scheme, append the login name to the hash string when hashing the password. When you do that, even two people with the same password will get a different hashed password!
Last one of the day was Francis Mignault about Globalization. One good tip if you use this functionality: if you move from one instance to another (from Dev to Test), you only move the Primary Application and reseed the translated applications from there. If you should export and import the translated applications the link between the Primary app and the translated ones is lost and it will get difficult to manage change.
All in all a very interesting day with a good crowd: around 250 people were present during the day!
After the sessions there was the Speaker and Ambassador meeting (with drinks and food), right after that the Welcome reception (more drinks and food) and later the ACE Dinner (even more drinks and food) at a lovely location at the Potomac river.
Conclusion: It has been a good day, and the conference haven't even started yet (officially)...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

First impressions of Washington...

On Saturday I had a very well scheduled travel from my home to Washington. Even the plane departed and arrived exactly as scheduled. And while the line for the US Border Security was quite long, it only took half an hour or so to take that hurdle. I have seen worse (1,5 hour in Houston), but also better (5 minutes in Minneapolis).
In my shared shuttle drive to the hotel the impression I didn't get an impressive view of Washington: just the regular broad streets packed with stores and restaurants. Once out of the shuttle the impression is that it is impressively hot and humid. Not as bad as New Orleans, but still.
After registration I went for a Indian dinner with Monty and Mark, I even managed to stay up until 10PM (and that with a 6 hour time difference). Due to that time difference I first woke up at 4AM, but managed to stay sort of sleeping until 6AM. Still to early for breakfast, but that gives me the chance to write this short blog post.
Today there are two important things on the agenda: The England vs. Germany game, and the APEX Cookbook symposium. But I'll might join them later, cause I think I'll pay a visit to the zoo first - while it is not that hot.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

APEX 4.0 available on OTN

As of Wednesday July 23, 14:00 (GMT+1) APEX 4.0 is available from OTN. See Joels post on this.
I am downloading this as I type, but it seems I am not the only one... Takes some time, but we have waited long enough for this release, so adding another 15 minutes doesn't harm.

Friday, June 18, 2010

#APEXinAntwerp - The first OBUG APEX SIG

Last Thursday the first official OBUG (Oracle Benelux User Group) was held in Antwerp with APEX 4.0 as the main subject of all presentations. Over 80 attendees attended this event and listened to six presentations during the day. Although it was very warm (some people would claim even 'hot') in the room, (almost) nobody feel asleep - for long.
After a warm welcome by Dimitri, Patrick Wolf showed a lot of the cool new APEX 4.0 features in a 1,5 hour presentation and demo. 
Next another Patrick (Hellemans) from InterAccess did a presentation on The Maturity Level of APEX.  According to Gartner and Forrester APEX will kick off (even more) the next two years! He also demo'ed an APEX Framework they made, to enable a kick start for APEX Application Development. Looked very good!
After a lunch with some nice sandwiches, I did my first gig on "Developing a Google Visualization Plugin for APEX 4.0" - the same as I will do next week at ODTUG. I think it went pretty well for a first time - the timing was exactly one hour ! - but I will make some minor adjustments for the next run. 
Next Dimitri was on with a nice presentation about Websheets and Team Development. He especially showed how easy it is to incorporate feedback in your application and transform feedback into bugs or enhancement requests. Will really change the way we'll develop and maintain APEX applications!
Olivier Dupont and Jan Huyzentruyt of iAdvise showed a lot of new 4.0 features that are not as eye-cathing as the Websheets, Team Development, Plug Ins etc, but will have a major impact on the speed of development and the quality of the work we'll deliver. Especially the comparison between the 'old' and the 'new' way of working was very interesting.
Last but not least was Iloon Ellen from Oracle, who focused on the enhancements made in the Tabular Forms. In the 'old' - or 'current' - version, Tabular Forms are always cumbersome. But the APEX Dev Team made some great enhancements to it, so handcrafted Tabular Forms (using apex_item) will not be necessary as often as they do now! Great stuff.
After the show was closed, Dimitri, Iloon, Learco and myself had a nice dinner on one of many outside terraces in Antwerp. It was a long (from 6AM to 11PM), hot and tiresome day, but definitely worthwhile!
The next APEX OBUG SIG will be .... on October 27 and 28 in Brussels. In conjunction with ODTUG's OPP and APEXposed. That definitely will be an event not-to-miss, so block these dates in your agenda!


Last Tuesday CampusIT - in cooperation with Oracle - organized the first APEX event in Ireland. Around 50 people from around the country visited the O'Callaghan Alexander hotel for a series of five presentations around APEX (done by the four presenters on the picture). First on was Dimitri with his "Mastering an APEX Page" presentation - always a success. I was om next doing my "APEX and Forms Integration" presentation and demo.
After a - very good ! - lunch Bary McGillin from Oracle (from the SQL Developer Dev Team) was substituting Hilary Farell (from the APEX Dev Team), who couldn't make it - probably very busy with the last loose ends of APEX 4.0. After the APEX 4.0 presentation Barry did a presentation on SQL Developer 2.1.1.  But he also did a demo on the brand new 3.0 release. And as you might expect this release includes many new features and enhancements. Some of these features are aimed at the DBA, like changing Oracle parameters on the fly, adding datafiles and even starting and stopping instances. Other new things are more for Developers, like another way of browsing users and objects (more TOAD-style) and even a Tuning Advisor!
An early adopter of this new version should be available somewhere in the summer, while the official release is planned midst September (read "Oracle Open World"). All the usual disclaimers applied of course!
The slides of the presentations are available from the bottom of this page.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Suggest-a-session 2010 is live

Since some time last week the third version of "Suggest a Session" for Oracle Open World 2010 is live. You can already pick your favorites from 60 sessions at this moment - that number will probably rise the next couple of weeks.

Warning....shameless plug ahead...

And if you're interested in an extra APEX session, you can vote for mine: Creating a sub-zero dashboard plugin for APEX using Google Visualizations.

Voting is open until June 20!