Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Simple Twitter Search Plug-in

I created a simple Twitter Plug-in - using the Twitter Search Widget - to incorporate something similar in your APEX application as shown here below. The APEX demo is here.
You can download it (soon) from http://www.apex-plugin.com.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

APEX Listener Confusion

I just downloaded and installed version 1.10.xx of the APEX Listener. After solving some problems - most of them due to "no need reading the manual", I've got it up and running. Now I can access APEX choosing from a variety of ports: APEX Listener, EPG, Apache's mod_plsql.

A few things are confusing me though:

1. At last weeks ODTUG was announced that the APEX Listener made it into production (the version number also indicates that status). But if you're looking at the official download site, it says: "The Application Express Listener is currently an early adopters release and is not supported by Oracle Support.".  So what is the - current - truth?

2. Reading the documentation (after all), I noticed: "The Oracle Application Express Listener supports the following Java Enterprise Edition application servers: Oracle WebLogic Server 11g Release 1 (10.3.3), Sun GlassFish Enterprise Server 3 +, Oracle Containers for J2EE 10.1.3.4 or higher". The funny thing is that if you download and install the OTN Database Development Appliance (which is great btw), Tomcat is used as webserver. In the early (or earlier?) adopter release, also Tomcat was mentioned as an option (and Glassfish wasn't).

3. For a reason I haven't figured out yet, I can't get to the listenerAdmin page (http://localhost:8888/apex/listenerAdmin). Username and password defined in the tomcat-users.xml are accepted, but I don't get the nice admin page I expected (the same when running the /Config at first). If you have a solution, please add it to the comments!

The good thing is that the APEX Listener (on Tomcat) starts up as a breeze now and the APEX pages perform nicely!

Friday, July 02, 2010

ODTUG: Thursday and the day after...

The last day of this great conference had "only" three presentation slots. The first one I attended, but honestly I didn't pay that much of an attention. I was writing my previous post at that time and I was rather familiar with the subject "Forms to APEX conversion". And I totally agree with the conclusions: Converting simple Forms is easy, but the more complex the Forms, the more work it will take to convert it to APEX!
The second one was called "APEX Stimulus Package". In fact it was more or less a list of things you have to consider to improve the performance of your APEX application - also due to the fact that most demo's didn't work because of a failing internet connection. 
To name some of the tips: Reduce images sizes and use png instead of gif or jpg; check the Apache log for errors and resolve them; add a favicon.ico; watch out with pagination schemes; tune your Page 0 processes; use Page and Region caching where appropriate; minify javascipt and css files; externalize javascript and css files; refactor PL/SQL etc. Some of the tips where obvious, some of them quite useful.
The last one of this week was rather cool. Roy McLean showed how to use Oracle Data Mining in combination with APEX. I never used the Data Mining stuff before, and you might need a degree in maths to use it properly, but the things you can do are rather amazing. For instance you can predict what probably will happen. As an example Roy showed a sort of Helpdesk application where a call was assigned to a certain (pool of) engineers by the text that you entered when describing the problem!
After the show was over I paid a visit to Obama's house, the Washington Monument and checked out the West side of The Mall.
The day after. Friday, I had until 10PM before my flight was leaving, so I visited the Capitol and "did" the East side of The Mall. The weather was fine (cooler than at home!) and it was good fun.
As in previous years I liked ODTUG very much - the best conference in the world. Hope to be there again next year in Long Beach, California.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

ODTUG: Wednesday

This day started off with a very nice presentation about the joys of Javascript by Dan "The Man"McGhan. In a very nice pace he took the audience by the hand and increased the difficulty level step-by-step. His key message was; Don't be scared of Javascript, because if you look close enough it is looks more like PL/SQL than you might think at first sight. Get to learn jQuery and do your thing!
Another nice presentation was about "RESTful Web Services" by Jason Straub. He demoed how you can use webservices withing APEX to manage the buckets and contents on an Amazon S3 cloud environment. He also pointed out that not only APEX can consume webservices, but also can act as the source of a webservice. In order to achieve that you have to create a report on a public page that returns either XML or Json. He didn't show a demo, but promised to get out a paper or how-to out there next week. Have to try that myself soon!
Another fine session was Tim St. Hilaire's session on "APEX and AJAX". Nice examples on how to handcode your Ajax processes (the 'old' way) and how to new Dynamic Actions to do it the APEX 4-way.
Then, finally, it was my turn to show the coolest Plug-In of the conference - at least, that's my humble opinion ;-). Around 60 - 70 people showed up and the presentation went very well. ended right on time again!
After that, I didn't have the energy to attend another session and just had a beer at the bar with some other Europeans (Debra, Alex, Marco, Jonathan, Tim etc).
Then it was time for the "big party": good food, more than enough drinks and a very good comedian (John Heffron). After some more drinks in the Presedentail Suite (thanks Mike Riley) it was time to head off to bed....

ODTUG: Tuesday

One of the highlights of todays conference was the "Plug-In Showcase" where Anton, Dietmar, Dan, Dimitri and Doug each showed a plugin they wrote the last couple of days. They showed some real simple ones, like a hover function up to more complex things like a Netlfix style drag and drop functionality. The conclusion is; Once you get the hang of it, writing Plug-Ins isn't that hard - and using good Plug-Ins is very simple. So Plug-Ins enhance your development speed dramatically and can be an enormous improvement to your end-user experience.
One other session was about changing the look-and-feel of your APEX page, using the templates and changing the css. The new Theme 4 in APEX 4.0 is even shipped with PSD (Photoshop) files that contain the sprites (a collection of images within one file) used within that template. You can edit these files in order to change the look of the buttons, regions and whatever else there's on your page.
Another nice one was "Oracle Trace Data for Developers" by Cary Millsap. The core message is: Don't purely rely on your tkprof output to analyze your performance (issues), because tkprof leaves out a lot of information that is in the raw data of the trace file, You might have to read and understand the trace file itself to get to the bottom of a problem.
Martin d'Souza did a a very nice job in his presentation about using the APEX Dictionary to improve your user interface by changing the way APEX shows the help, error handling etc. All done very nicely. Most (if not all) solutions also are available on his blog.
There even was a evening session today (visiting ODTUG is really hard work): A live PL/SQL Challenge by Steven Feuerstein. 10 nasty questions on PL/SQL had to be answered. When Steven showed the answers it now and then became more a Steven F Challenge, because some answers where not that obvious and clear and led to a lot of discussion - which was very good and fun to do! And of course congrats to Alex Nuijten who won the 500-dollar first prize. I ended up 7th and received a copy of Steven's lates book: PL/SQL for 11gR2 - 2 kilo added to my luggage!
After this a part of the Dutch contingent (Iloon, Learco, Alex and myself) went out for some fine Lebanese food. We closed off the day with a(nother) few drinks at the bar.