Windoze and Microspew at it again.

In reading the Google News Sci/Tech headlines today, near the top was the following article.

Windows Security Flaw Is ‘Severe’ Washington Post – 36 minutes ago
A previously unknown flaw in Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating system is leaving computer users vulnerable to spyware, viruses and other programs that could overtake their machines and has …

So I’m going to ask two stupid questions.

  1. When is a Windows Security flaw not serious and will not leave computers vulnerable, blah blah blah?
  2. When are these articles going to end the monopoly of the desktop and start actively promoting viable open source linux alternatives every time these articles are written.

Makes you wonder about the media?

Adding to the Library Collection

I took the chance today to order some books from Amazon today to add to the library. Of course I’m still reading 2 current books Spring in Action and the MySQL Certification Study Guide in order to site the second MySQL Professional Certification Exam.

As with most things, you start off looking or reading on the web for something and you end up completely somewhere else. In this case, it was looking at Linux Software Labs (Australia) at the price of their Linux Distribution CD’s, which lead me to the book Beyond Java listed on their site. Called my local computer book store, but not being open (Boxing Day Public Holiday), lead me to go, “well I’ve been meaning to order some books from Amazon”, what were they again. So this lead me to coming up with a whole new list, and I figured for the cost of freight to Australia, I may as well order a few. So here is what I got.

Better, Faster, Lighter Java, MySQL (3rd Edition) (Developer’s Library) , High Performance MySQL,and of course Beyond Java.

The hard part now being the waiting 6-10 days.

Promoting a new Feed Icon

I found this site which is promoting the use of a unified feed icon. Firefox started it, IE is onboard, it’s time for us to back up around it. Spread the joy.

Feed Icons: A new standard is being established to identify syndicated content. You can help by adding this icon to your site. What’s it all about

December Java Users Group talk on AJAX

I attended the December meeting of the Brisbane Java Users Group last night. The presenters Alex and Brad from Working Mouse a Brisbane Based J2EE Solutions Provider gave a talk on AJAX.

What is AJAX? It stands for “Asynchronous Javascript and XML”. While the name has stuck, it both does not require Asynchronous communication, nor need to use XML, at least the Javascript part stays. AJAX is also not a new language or technology, merely a collection of technologies grouped together to provide a given function, which is to provide rich feature in page functionality within a web browser. The presentation centered around DWR – Direct Web Remoting implementation. There are in fact a number around in various server languages.

Let me explain some more, providing dynamic content on a website is straight forward, when you request a page, however to provide dynamic content within a page without refreshing the page (and in turn keeping all page state) is not a feature of the HTTP protocol. The most obvious case always presented is when selecting a Country Select Box value, a Select Box of States is populated based on the selection without the user seeing both the entire page reloading and waiting for this. There are of course a number of examples of use.

AJAX isn’t new, infact the underlying requirements within AJAX, the DHTML, DOM manipulation and XMLHttpRequest were available in 1997 (as mentioned in the presentation by Brad). In fact, I implemented functionality to perform what AJAX does back in the late 90’s, probably starting 1999, using solely Javascript, and some of that is still in use today on at least one of my sites. Of course Google made this functionality popular with it’s use in Google Suggest a few years ago.

While the presentation was a good introduction to those that had not seen this in operation, the subsequent discussions over dinner prompted some strong reactions, which is good in our line of work.

This technology implementation is inherently flawed, primarily due to the reliance on a Web Browser, and being both a multitude of available browsers across platforms and more specifically a lack of standards adoption causes this technology simply not to be available for all users. Of course Microsoft Internet Explorer is a significant pain in the butt here, as it’s simply not standards compliant, and you are forced to write bad code to work in IE simply due to it’s market penetration. There are of course a lot more of concern, proxies at multiple levels of interaction can drive you mad, and the increases in bandwidth and server performance.

That aside, the issue of needing to provide this level of rich content within a browser is another very good case. This is driven by end user need, and ultimately it is rather ridiculous it’s complicated code, it’s yet another language within the application to support, and the support is difficult, it’s even more complicated to provide some type of automated testing. But I guess the strongest comments came from Max, who recognised me after 15 years. Max was a lecturer in my undergraduate studies from 87-89, a long time ago. I would place Max (not his real name by the way, it’s a long story which took some research at the time), as one of the top three lecturers in my studies that influenced my path to where I am today.

His points were totally valid, why oh why are we doing this, it’s just ridiculous this level of complexity, to do what a browser was not simply designed to do. I would tend to agree, we are forced again by the influence of Microsoft technologies on end users to provide a level of experience they have been brainwashed into. It so reminds me of the The Matrix movie, where everybody is living under the power of the machines (Microsoft), and there a small few fighting a rebel cause to show them what the picture really looks like.

XP Group in Brisbane

Brisbane has another XP Group. Just found out about it. Info can be found at http://groups.google.com/group/Brisbane-XP. I’ve been involved in some part in 2 previous groups in Brisbane.

I’m thinking about some ideas myself, I’ve got all the XP skills, however I’m now skilling up in Spring (a full-stack Java/J2EE application framework) and Hibernate (a powerful, ultra-high performance object/relational persistence and query service for Java). And I’ve got 2 other friends in similar positions.

Wouldn’t it be great if for 6 to 8 weeks, a few hours a week we could work on a project honning traditional XP as well as having some experience people in technologies helping others. Of course in comes back to some giving all to others, but I’m sure it doesn’t have to be that way.

Speaking at MySQL Users Group

I’m preparing to speak at the next MySQL Brisbane Users Group in Febraury 2006. My topic will be Know your competitor – A MySQL Developers Guide to Using Oracle Express Edition. You can get a full copy of my presentation slides at my Articles Page.

Having a strong background in Oracle, and having been using MySQL for the past 5 years, the release of Oracle Database 10g Express Edition (XE) as a Free offering (with limitations of 1 CPU, 1GB Ram, and 4GB disk) is an interesting move by Oracle.

I’ve written a number of recent comments on various Oracle/MySQL things including Responses to some Oracle v’s MySQL Questions, How can Oracle 10g Express Edition target MySQL?, Oracle 10g Express Edition Target Audience. Is it MySQL?, Oracle 10g Express, Free v’s Open Source and OFA.

The question could be posed, what relevence does this have to MySQL developers? Well, in some respects very little, but in others, both knowing about your competitor a little more, being able to see their offering, and in particular in comparision to MySQL can help in a level of understanding in Database differences. I am hoping that from the discussions, people will consider some approaches to design and development that is more “database compatible”, regardless of which database.

Will Oracle 10g Express Edition take off, well difficult question, there are many target markets, will it compete with MySQL in Open Source, hopefully my talk will sporn some discussion of peoples experiences in the various organisations and businesses represented in our meetings.

Upcoming Open Source Conference Presentation

I’ve been working recently on a paper I’m presenting to a conference in February 2006 titled Implementing Open Source for Optimal Business Performance. I’ve got the final glossy brochure yesterday so I now have something to show everybody. View Here (Be warned it’s a little bright)

The topic I have been asked to speak on is Overcoming the Challenges of Establishing Service and Support Channels. My notes are still in the early stage, but are available at http://wiki.arabx.com.au/index.php/ARABX_Articles:Overcoming_Service_and_Support_Channels

Conference Details on Ark Group Web Site

Review of Database Magazine Article – "The Usual Suspects"

In the “Australian Technology and Business Magazine” – December 2005 edition there was an article on comparing database products. Here are my comments, which I also plan to forward to the editor.

BTW: I’ve since also found this articles content on another site here. It seems that most if not all is the same.

In response to your cover story article “The Usual Suspects Four databases we suspect your business could be quite interested in.” which appeared in the December 2005 edition, I would have to sum up your article in one word “Disappointing”. Let me provide some feedback from my perspective.

You start by defining a scenario, which is the only approach you can take for a suitable comparision of database products due to diversity of features available in todays products. A good start, necessary to limit the discussion of features and functionality. However, you then specify some additional business requirements, for example “relatively small e-commerce” and “cost of the initial server and database software is certainly an issue.” Now, having worked for a number of small internet and e-commerce companies, you don’t have the budget for a Dell Quad Xeon processor machine, nor then the requirements for co-located hosting or dedicate networking bandwidth for your fancy new hardware as well as the additional staffing support costs. So immediately your scenario is more unrealistic.

The major sticking point I have is your 4 processor requirement. The most efficient and cost effective initial implementation is to lease dedicated servers, there are numerous reasons including cost savings, better hardware support, larger bandwidth capacity and easy growth path to start. You can also easily monitor growth and more quickly change needs then having a large initial hardware cost. I could continue regarding hosting, however this alone changes the requirements to using single or dual processor machines given your scenario. With this in mind the playing field is now completely different but a better reflection of the scenario. Your argument for “scale up to a small server farm”, also does not hold, because you can easily get economy of scale in splitting application server and database server, splitting OLTP and batch database requirements and other common practices, not to mention additional benefits such as redundancy.

My final comments on your hardware, specifically in relation to MySQL (including using Version 3), you can get significant performance from hardware given your small size requirements and even with modest growth on single and dual processor equipment. Other then opening remarks your article makes no further references to performance requirements or indeed any level of performance analysis of the products reviewed in this article.

You make scant reference to other database products, mentioning only one ‘Sybase’ in half a sentence in your opening and once again. In 8 pages, surely rounding the article to give a clearer perspective of the marketplace with even one paragraph to mention that there are many different database products both commercial and open source that service differing business needs. Other major products not compared at this time include Sybase, Informix, Ingres, PostgreSQL, MaxDB and Berley DB as well as many more.

Your choice of products is also not consistent or reflective of your scenerio. I’ll provide a few specific reasons. Firstly, you compare beta products against production products, if your criteria was current production products you should have compared using MS SQL Server 2000, however that would clearly provide a poor reflection in Microsoft due to it’s clearly dated product. If you allowed one beta product, why then did you not use MySQL 5.0 beta which was available at the time. While you have taken the effort to adjust your article to include references to MySQL 5.0, and you in turn choose MySQL as your editor’s choice, you should have been consistent throughout the article as you give mixed comparising referencing two versions of one product. Futher to this, you choose to use a dated Oracle product in 10g Release 1. 10g Release 2 has been available for a number of months. I would also question your decision to choose the more expensive Standard Edition over Standard Edition One, but this again could be soley due to your overspecd hardware.

If your rationale for including beta was cost based, then you did Oracle a clear injustice. You make again, only a half sentence reference to Oracle’s new released free product in the opening section. You mix more recent MySQL 5.0 information within your review of MySQL 4.1.14, yet you mention nothing of Oracle 10g Express Edition, for example it’s a free product much like Microsoft SQL Server Express, but also has similar limitation in 1 CPU, 1GB RAM and 4GB of disk but all the power and functionality of other Oracle Products, as well as default inclusion of web based administration tools with HTMLDB.

Your quick product summary (4 columns of information) suffers from a number of already mentioned points, however in relation to the only commercial product with a free offering, MS SQL Server Express, you clearly gloss over the limitations. 1 CPU, 1GB Ram and 4GB of disk is critical information, this should have been included in the product summary, you only go part the way. Regarding MySQL, should have clearly stated reference to $0 under GPL license. On that note, and mentioned in your detailed review, there are limitations in the distribution of MySQL within a commercial product and this is not in your summary.

Your article places no emphasis on performance or efficiency. Given your need to mention your testing on quad processor hardware, you make references to various limits of CPU across products, memory and hardware requirements as well as some generic maximum sizings, but nothing on performance, throughput and then growth potential, as this was part of your opening scenario.

It’s not possible to clearly date when this review of products was performed, granted the marketplace has changed rapidly in recent months, the fact that your article references Oracle 10g Express edition clearly includes changes were possible to the article in early November.

In an 8 page article, as mentioned you could have allocated one column to mention that the Database marketplace contains many more products. In particular considering you have included an Open Source product, and you selected this as product of choice, I feel this gives even more justification to at least giving credit to the emerging Open Source Database market. You actually place I recall only one mention to “Open Source” which is signifcant in the context of your choice. Other products would include PostgreSQL, Berkley DB, Apache Derby and even Ingres. While your article should clearly not need to analyse these at this time, by leading into this topic you provide clear opportunity for further discussion.

At the end of the day, while you provided a concise one page breakdown of features and certain limits, this technical information does not provide a clear benefit to an IT manager, or even a technical person.

Web 2.0 Design Patterns

In his book, “A Pattern Language”, Christopher Alexander prescribes a format for the concise description of the solution to architectural problems. He writes: “Each pattern describes a problem that occurs over and over again in our environment, and then describes the core of the solution to that problem, in such a way that you can use this solution a million times over, without ever doing it the same way twice.”

1. The Long Tail
Small sites make up the bulk of the internet’s content; narrow niches make up the bulk of internet’s the possible applications. Therefore: Leverage customer-self service and algorithmic data management to reach out to the entire web, to the edges and not just the center, to the long tail and not just the head.
2. Data is the Next Intel Inside
Applications are increasingly data-driven. Therefore: For competitive advantage, seek to own a unique, hard-to-recreate source of data.
3. Users Add Value
The key to competitive advantage in internet applications is the extent to which users add their own data to that which you provide. Therefore: Don’t restrict your “architecture of participation” to software development. Involve your users both implicitly and explicitly in adding value to your application.
4. Network Effects by Default
Only a small percentage of users will go to the trouble of adding value to your application. Therefore: Set inclusive defaults for aggregating user data as a side-effect of their use of the application.
5. Some Rights Reserved.
Intellectual property protection limits re-use and prevents experimentation. Therefore: When benefits come from collective adoption, not private restriction, make sure that barriers to adoption are low. Follow existing standards, and use licenses with as few restrictions as possible. Design for “hackability” and “remixability.”
6. The Perpetual Beta
When devices and programs are connected to the internet, applications are no longer software artifacts, they are ongoing services. Therefore: Don’t package up new features into monolithic releases, but instead add them on a regular basis as part of the normal user experience. Engage your users as real-time testers, and instrument the service so that you know how people use the new features.
7. Cooperate, Don’t Control
Web 2.0 applications are built of a network of cooperating data services. Therefore: Offer web services interfaces and content syndication, and re-use the data services of others. Support lightweight programming models that allow for loosely-coupled systems.
8. Software Above the Level of a Single Device
The PC is no longer the only access device for internet applications, and applications that are limited to a single device are less valuable than those that are connected. Therefore: Design your application from the get-go to integrate services across handheld devices, PCs, and internet servers.

What Is Web 2.0?

In his article What Is Web 2.0 – Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software Tim O’Reilly gives a very detailed description of these seven principles.

1. The Web As Platform
2. Harnessing Collective Intelligence
3. Data is the Next Intel Inside
4. End of the Software Release Cycle
5. Lightweight Programming Models
6. Software Above the Level of a Single Device
7. Rich User Experiences

Core Competencies of Web 2.0 Companies

In exploring the seven principles above, we’ve highlighted some of the principal features of Web 2.0. Each of the examples we’ve explored demonstrates one or more of those key principles, but may miss others. Let’s close, therefore, by summarizing what we believe to be the core competencies of Web 2.0 companies:

* Services, not packaged software, with cost-effective scalability
* Control over unique, hard-to-recreate data sources that get richer as more people use them
* Trusting users as co-developers
* Harnessing collective intelligence
* Leveraging the long tail through customer self-service
* Software above the level of a single device
* Lightweight user interfaces, development models, AND business models

The next time a company claims that it’s “Web 2.0,” test their features against the list above. The more points they score, the more they are worthy of the name. Remember, though, that excellence in one area may be more telling than some small steps in all seven.

Some of the information provided is very interesting, I will be waiting with interest to see if this term “Web 2.0″ becomes something, or not.

Myths Open Source Developers Tell Ourselves

Some interesting points from this ONLamp article on Myths Open Source Developers Tell Ourselves

Publishing your Code Will Attract Many Skilled and Frequent Contributors
Myth: Publicly releasing open source code will attract flurries of patches and new contributors.
Reality: You’ll be lucky to hear from people merely using your code, much less those interested in modifying it.

Feature Freezes Help Stability
Myth: Stopping new development for weeks or months to fix bugs is the best way to produce stable, polished software.
Reality: Stopping new development for awhile to find and fix unknown bugs is fine. That’s only a part of writing good software.

The Best Way to Learn a Project is to Fix its Bugs and Read its Code
Myth: New developers interested in the project will best learn the project by fixing bugs and reading the source code.
Reality: Reading code is difficult. Fixing bugs is difficult and probably something you don’t want to do anyway. While giving someone unglamorous work is a good way to test his dedication, it relies on unstructured learning by osmosis.

Packaging Doesn’t Matter
Myth: Installation and configuration aren’t as important as making the source available.
Reality: If it takes too much work just to get the software working, many people will silently quit.

It’s Better to Start from Scratch
Myth: Bad or unappealing code or projects should be thrown away completely.
Reality: Solving the same simple problems again and again wastes time that could be applied to solving new, larger problems.

Programs Suck; Frameworks Rule!
Myth: It’s better to provide a framework for lots of people to solve lots of problems than to solve only one problem well.
Reality: It’s really hard to write a good framework unless you’re already using it to solve at least one real problem.

I’ll Do it Right *This* Time
Myth: Even though your previous code was buggy, undocumented, hard to maintain, or slow, your next attempt will be perfect.
Reality: If you weren’t disciplined then, why would you be disciplined now?

Warnings Are OK
Myth: Warnings are just warnings. They’re not errors and no one really cares about them.
Reality: Warnings can hide real problems, especially if you get used to them.

End Users Love Tracking CVS
Myth: Users don’t mind upgrading to the latest version from CVS for a bugfix or a long-awaited feature.
Reality: If it’s difficult for you to provide important bugfixes for previous releases, your CVS tree probably isn’t very stable.

Web 2.0. Not to be confused with Internet2

What is Web 2.0? Well the definitions out there aren’t clear and precise. Tim O’Reilly from O’Reilly Publishing has a detailed description at http://www.oreillynet.com/lpt/a/6228. (More notes from this below) His compact description is:

“Web 2.0 is the network as platform, spanning all connected devices; Web 2.0 applications are those that make the most of the intrinsic advantages of that platform: delivering software as a continually-updated service that gets better the more people use it, consuming and remixing data from multiple sources, including individual users, while providing their own data and services in a form that allows remixing by others, creating network effects through an “architecture of participation,” and going beyond the page metaphor of Web 1.0 to deliver rich user experiences.”

The Web 2 Conference (www.web2con.com) with the theme “Revving the Web” has some interesting content on the site.

Let me be clear, I didn’t know what Web 2.0 was 2 hours ago, I stumbled across an article Web 2.0 Principles applied by Yellowikis while research IT Outsourcing jobs in India/China etc (go figure). Anyway, the following summation prompted me to read about this topic a little more.

* Web-based (of course) and uses wiki technology; the same MediaWiki software that powers Wikipedia.
* Any user can both read and write content – adding business listings and editing them. To put it in ‘Web 2.0 wanker’ terms, it harnesses collective intelligence.
* Requires a significant amount of ‘trust’ in the users.
* Can be deployed via the Web in countries all over the world (see Emily Chang’s interview with Paul Youlten for more details on this aspect).
* Developed and is maintained by a small team (just Paul and his 14-year old daughter – both working part-time).
* Has fast, lightweight and inexpensive development cycles.
* Uses Open Source LAMP technologies (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) – meaning it is very cheap to run.
* The content has no copyright and is freely licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License 1.2.
* Can and will hook into other Web systems, e.g. Google Maps. Indeed if it introduces its own APIs, then it will be able to be remixed by other developers.
* Relies on word-of-mouth and other ‘viral’ marketing.
* Requires network effects to kick in order to be successful (at least at the scale of disrupting the Yellow Pages industry).
* Yellowikis will get better the more people use it. The Wikipedia is an excellent example of this.

Taking a few lines from Tim O’Reillys detailed description as a quick taste for you to read more.

  • Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia based on the unlikely notion that an entry can be added by any web user, and edited by any other, is a radical experiment in trust, applying Eric Raymond’s dictum (originally coined in the context of open source software) that “with enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow,” to content creation. Wikipedia is already in the top 100 websites, and many think it will be in the top ten before long. This is a profound change in the dynamics of content creation!
  • It is a truism that the greatest internet success stories don’t advertise their products. Their adoption is driven by “viral marketing”–that is, recommendations propagating directly from one user to another. You can almost make the case that if a site or product relies on advertising to get the word out, it isn’t Web 2.0.
  • 4. End of the Software Release Cycle – As noted above in the discussion of Google vs. Netscape, one of the defining characteristics of internet era software is that it is delivered as a service, not as a product. This fact leads to a number of fundamental changes in the business model of such a company:
  • One of the key lessons of the Web 2.0 era is this: Users add value. But only a small percentage of users will go to the trouble of adding value to your application via explicit means. Therefore, Web 2.0 companies set inclusive defaults for aggregating user data and building value as a side-effect of ordinary use of the application. As noted above, they build systems that get better the more people use them.
  • Contrast, however, the position of Amazon.com. Like competitors such as Barnesandnoble.com, its original database came from ISBN registry provider R.R. Bowker. But unlike MapQuest, Amazon relentlessly enhanced the data, adding publisher-supplied data such as cover images, table of contents, index, and sample material. Even more importantly, they harnessed their users to annotate the data, such that after ten years, Amazon, not Bowker, is the primary source for bibliographic data on books, a reference source for scholars and librarians as well as consumers. Amazon also introduced their own proprietary identifier, the ASIN, which corresponds to the ISBN where one is present, and creates an equivalent namespace for products without one. Effectively, Amazon “embraced and extended” their data suppliers.
  • Users must be treated as co-developers, in a reflection of open source development practices (even if the software in question is unlikely to be released under an open source license.) The open source dictum, “release early and release often” in fact has morphed into an even more radical position, “the perpetual beta,” in which the product is developed in the open, with new features slipstreamed in on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. It’s no accident that services such as Gmail, Google Maps, Flickr, del.icio.us, and the like may be expected to bear a “Beta” logo for years at a time.
  • …Support lightweight programming models that allow for loosely coupled systems…. …Think syndication, not coordination… … Design for “hackability” and remixability…

I could go on.

Other References
ZDNET Web2Con

Quotes from Web 2.0 Conference Web Site

I’m writing something about Web 2.0, but I got distracted by the random header quotes that appear on the website at www.web2con.com. Never being a Simpon’s fan, but it reminds me of those sites out there with all Bart’s blackboard quotes.

  • “Web 1.0 was making the Internet for people, Web 2.0 is making the Internet better for companies.” – Jess Bezos
  • “I personally use the web as an Intelligence Amplifier” – Bran Ferren of Disney
  • “Truly great companies aren’t built by the greedy, but by the passionate” – William Gurley
  • “Never underestimate the Internet. Manipulate it. Respect it. But don’t try to dominate it.” – Jerry Yang
  • “Operate as if you are in perpetual beta.” – Tim O’Reilly
  • “The value of your product is in inverse proportion to the cost of customer aquisition.” – Shelby Bonnie
  • “Most people think money is the key to reducing risk. Prepartion is.” – Mark Cuban
  • “The internet is the most underutilized advertising medium that’s out there.” – Mary Meeker
  • “In the era of Internet television, it will be as simple and cost-effective to create a microchannel as it is to create a Web site.” – Jeremy Allaire
  • “It used to be that Internet was considered a secondary market. Now it is the primary market.” – Sky Dayton
  • “Innovation is not the exclusive province of New Economy companies.” – John McKinley
  • “I’d rather do something interesting, solve an interesting problem, then do something boring and get rich.” – Louis Monier
  • “There’s always a curve ball! But that’s when the interesting stuff happens.” – Mark Fletcher

A better approach to using China for software development

India and China are the next powerhouses of software development, simply due to the numbers, but I’ve never heard a good report (maybe I have to dig deeper). My recent experiences are with Australian companies placing call centres in these countries, and almost always the language barrier is a clear limit.

As part of an upcoming conference paper I’m giving I have been looking more closer at the software options available, and I came across an interesting concept that has the background funding to get off the ground (a common problem in startups), and addresses a number of issues including the language barrier (which is less prominent with code).

Sinocode (www.sinocode.com) is the new generation in Offshore Development Centres (ODCs), delivering high value developer expertise from China. Our service offers:

  • Strong economic value in robust software solutions;
  • Proven western style management expertise; and,
  • Highly talented staff.

All of these drivers underpin our proven capability to execute. Execution, on time and on budget, is our key attraction.

(This is their sales pitch, not mine)

Some more reading:
Article in the Australian on 4th October 2005 Ernst places faith in China
An ABC radio interview on 30th August 2005 IT entreprenuer Lloyd Ernst

"JS Debugger Service is not installed" – Firefox debugger message

Attempting to run the Venkman JavaScript Debugger in FireFox 1.07 doesn’t work under CentOS 4.2.

It keeps launching an error window with “JS Debugger Service is not installed”. This does not appear to be an isolated issue from a Google search, however finding the solution proved a little harder to track down.

There is a thread at the Mozilla Bug Tracking site that sheds light on the problem.

1. You should first ensure you have the latest version of the debugger? (0.9.85, as far as I’m aware) (Available from http://hacksrus.com/~ginda/venkman/)

2. You need in the location bar on the browser enter about:buildconfig and see if –disable-jsd is specified?

Should you see that, you have your problem, the Linux distro has disabled this.
The solution is to download the tar directly from FireFox, however if your OS has previously installed by rpm, as in my case, you have to consider now running a different non rpm version.

Handling SPAM

Well it’s not a new debate, thats for sure, and I have very strong views on this topic (especially blacklists and ISP’s restricting trade), as well as an approach to a new Protocol termed ‘Authenicated Mail’ or ‘amail’. I’ll need to put my notes on my blog one day.

The purpose for note, is the ongoing increasing spam and inappropiateness of mail that is coming to a general web accessible email address for a client.
I’ve proposed they move to a Challenge Response System for at least general listed email addresses on web sites. This will at least cut down the amount received at the mailbox, however it doesn’t eliminate the mail, the traffic, time, money and space used in mail.

What other approaches can you try. Well, not having a mailto link on your site is a good start. The use of an image to display an email address and not text is also a sound entry approach. I’d also recommend that for general web inquiries, you rotate your names, for example: website@domain.com, inquiries@domain.com, contactus@domain.com etc. As the address is only used on the website, changing the email, and turning the old name into an invalid mailbox will help.

I’ve also found another novel approach, this is the second time I’ve seen this. The website asks you to please add predefined characters into the subject line. Here’s and example.

http://r0.unctad.org/ecommerce/ecommerce_en/contact_en.htm

Blog Upgrade Time Again

Well, in the space of a few months, I’ve outgrown the previous Drupal version I was using for Blogs, which was a replacement of an earlier Blog implementation. The primary reason was better date based indexing, either by months, or calendar functions. I was told that a calendar function was available but was unable to locate (at least easily).

Anyway, I’m now using WordPress. It provides the added strength of Archives (which is in months), and one other great thing – Categories. Given I’ve been writing across a few different technologies and interests it’s great to be able to seperate these out, and then even submit this appropiately via RSS to some blog aggregetors.

I’ve moved all my articles, but I’ve lost the dates of older stuff from my first move. The old blog is still available at http://techstuff.arabx.com.au

Degrees of Separation 1 – MySQL to Open Source Definition to 2005 Open Source Awards

I often when reading articles end up where I never started on the web. You can find some amazing things, and of course lose a lot of time. I think it’s about time to document my degrees of separation from time to time.

Responses to some Oracle v's MySQL Questions

I was asked a few questions by a reporter thru a collegue, here is an extract of the discussion.

1) Based on your initial experience with Oracle Database Express Edition, what are your initial thoughts on the product in terms of meeting developer needs?

Installing Oracle 10g Express Edition was a breeze. (Article). In the past Oracle products have been more difficult to install, however this has gradually improved with the more recent version releases of 8i, 9i and 10g. This easy installation via rpm under Linux, in particular the inclusion of HTMLDB provides an ideal database environment that is functional in just a few minutes. This is an important first step in gaining initial developer support.

With the database installation, the Web Based HTMLDB Interface and a sound amount of developer articles online at the Oracle Technology Network ( http://otn.oracle.com), there is a lot of information to meet a developers need. In particular, HTMLDB which offers Database Administration, general SQL tools, easy data management and a complete web forms development environment. There is a learning curve in understanding this functionality, however it is an extensive and powerful tool for developers, and requires a minimum of syntax specific knowledge. With the release of Raptor in December, Oracle will have a visual tool for development, which will complement this offering in meeting developer needs.

2) As a mySQL developer, do you think it is on par with proprietary database offerings?

MySQL celebrated it’s 10 anniversary this year, and with the Release of MySQL 5.0, gave the open source community a product to match the strengths of others products with new functionality including views, stored procedures, triggers and a data dictionary. Oracle provided these features with Oracle Version 7, released in 1992, long before MySQL was even a company. In a commercial world, MySQL now offers the strengths of an Oracle Database Product, however Oracle has grown extensively and offers not only a commercial database product but an entire suite of products. MySQL is on par in a great number of areas. Granted they are catching up quickly, and the Open Source community offers features that commercial companies cannot. This includes the ability for open source companies to change, adapt and correct more quickly, bringing features and functionality to the marketplace more often, and more open support and knowledge bases enabling users to gain easier and open access. These two points offer downsides that commercial product offerings in turn offer back, including more commercial strength functionality, and more consistent and managed knowledge management, particularly in support.

3) Do you think the efforts of vendors like Microsoft and Oracle to gain mindshare with entry level versions of their products would entice mySQL developers like you to consider their higher-end database products?

I think that Oracle 10g Express Edition caters to different markets. For existing users and developers with Oracle, the opportunity to provide their products for resale at a reduced cost, with a zero cost Oracle license is a definite market and opportunity for these Oracle Partners. I think the education sector, including universities is another potential market, where a genuine free product can be used in teaching, and then practical application, and lead into usage within the professional employment. The third sector, the competitor market, which includes MySQL and Microsoft is more complicated. Oracle will need to go further to bridge the gap in convenience for MySQL developers. To sight a few examples, MySQL is generally available now in online hosting packages, on Linux Distros. It’s quick, easy and convinient to access, and is gaining significant popularity in the open source community, a good barometer in success in a developer driven environment. When Oracle can provide it’s products within a Linux Distro and you can see Online Hosting providers offering packages including the Oracle 10g Express Edition database, gaining market share will at least be more convenient.
One other strength, is MySQL being part of LAMP, and the significant wealth of open source products developed with MySQL, makes it hard for Oracle to ever gain ground in these continued product offerings. Perhaps if Oracle considered a bounty system, much like Ubuntu, and enticed developers to ensure Open Source products were Oracle compatible, would further entice MySQL developers. (Article)
The downside of these two examples, is there is no return in investment to Oracle, so it will depend on which markets are ultimately intended for Oracle 10g Express Edition. (Article)

4) Among the proprietary database vendors, who do you think has the best offering in your opinion, and where would mySQL fit in?

In this marketplace, there is a platitude of Database Offerings (can provide a list if you want), Oracle has always been the market leader in the commercial space, and there still is no other offering to match this. Historically, software development with databases was undertaken by IT professionals and there were a small number of commercial products available. Oracle gained a large market share in the past 20 years and has kept up with technology advancement. In the past 10 years, the Open Source community has changed the shape of the product offerings, and has also change the type of developers. There is a divide between the professional developers with qualifications and specific experience in software development in a structured development environment, and the new age of developers that have easy access to tools and information, and can easily contributed to an open source project that may have hundreds or thousands of developers worldwide, but they do at times lack solid grounding, and this can lead to bad habits. Depending on your requirements, a large commercial organisation, or a small webstore and blog, there are different needs, and you can’t therefore compare database products based solely on features. You need to include the customer requirements, as well as the ability for a database product to grow and adapt to your business in the ever changing environment.

I think in this day and age, there needs to be a tolerance between multiple database offerings within organisations. As the CIO or CTO of a large organisation, I would hope that different needs within the organisation would lead to two database products in use and synergy, both Oracle and MySQL.

How can Oracle 10g Express Edition target MySQL?

As I mentioned earlier, is MySQL a target of the new Oracle 10g Express Edition. Maybe not specifically, but let’s assume it’s on the radar screen. What can Oracle do to woe MySQL users and developers?

I see distinct marketing will be required for Oracle 10g Express Edition, marketing for example to existing partners must be different to “Competitor Marketing”. While I’m sure Oracle will now be able to get benefits from Parters trying to sell their products, now being able to reduce costs to customers (at least initially). Other partners that never considered selling developed applications due to the license cost may now reconsider.

But back onto MySQL. Oracle needs to target specific information to MySQL. OTN Technical Articles for Developers and Architects has nothing on MySQL. I can see the need for a Cookbook to attract MySQL users. The Oracle 10g Express Edition page has some information on developer docs, but not on Conversion, Migration and comparison. Some more opportunity here!

While on Migration, I attempted using the Oracle Migration Workbench to migrate my Version 5 database, without success. MySQL would be low on the agenda if a Version 5 migration was not available for a product that’s been in a pre-production release for most of 2005.

So, there is a clear need for some documentation, Quick Start Guides and How To’s for the MySQL community. Obviously being able to do a database migration also very high. But again this is not a practical application, it’s just the icing.
Until some Open Source projects actively engage in Oracle 10g Express Edition, it will always be a novelty to the MySQL community that won’t get off the ground.

I can see one way to jump start the process. Oracle could offer bounties, much like Ubuntu, to get some of the large open source projects Oracle 10g Express Edition compatible.
For example, http://www.phpbb.com, http://www.oscommerce.com, http://www.phpwebsite.appstate.edu, http://www.dotproject.net.

Now offering $200 per project, that would shake some things up!

Oracle 10g Express Edition Target Audience. Is it MySQL?

Just where is Oracle planning on targeting the new Oracle 10g Express Edition?
The obvious answer would be to counter the arch nemesis Microsoft, and the low end product offerings, like the MS SQL Server and the low end free engine MSDE. I didn’t realise to recently, that Microsoft have finally released the next version of MS SQL Server, being 2005, and at the same time provide a free cut down offering, strangely enough called “Express Edition”. It’s taken Microsoft 5 years. Makes you wonder if Database Technology is a high priority!

Is Oracle also now threatened in anyway by MySQL? I think not, however the continued growth of MySQL, it’s availability on any Linux server and in many distros, and now with the MySQL 5.0 GA release with features like Views, Triggers, Stored Procedures, Information Schema and ANSI SQL compliance allows MySQL to compare itself in features with Oracle. Certainly from our local MySQL Users Group, the inside MySQL news is it’s targeted against Microsoft.

Of course Oracle has been around for quite some time, and when I started working with Oracle 7 and Oracle Designer 1.2 back in 1996, these features were already available.

Oracle 10g Express Edition is a specialist database product from a database company, and with the wealth of knowledge that has lead the lasted version 10, everybody else has a long way to go to match this strength. From MySQL, the feature set even in Version 3 and 4, was adequate for application development in many areas, and the community is driving additional features to match other database product offerings.

I think it will be interesting to see what additional information Oracle releases targeted against the MySQL community. I’ve got a number of thoughts here, will post more details soon.

Oracle 10g Express, Free v's Open Source and OFA

In lunching with an old Oracle Friend, the topic turned to Oracle 10g Express Edition, and we discussed the pros and cons for organisations. The first thing he asked me was, “Have you tried loading the database larger then the 4G limit yet”. Some People?

In general the consensus seemed that it was viable for a small organisation, good for a startup company to get into a no cost entry solution, but appealing to those venture capitalists as you have a definite growth pattern.

I’m warming to more actively pursing Oracle 10g Express Edition, especially with HTMLDB, and at present while preparing to submit a paper for an upcoming Open Source conference which I hope is accepted, I’ve allocated some time on the significant topic of Open Source Verses Free. Stay tuned.

It dawned on me later in the day to more closely investigate the Oracle RPM installation and where exactly everything went in the FileSystem. I was surprised that it was not OFA compliant.

What if an existing Oracle customer with licenses was trialling Oracle 10g Express Edition and using the same staff.
Or more importantly, what if a new Oracle person picked up some bad habits from the Oracle 10g Express Edition, and when placed in a more commercial Oracle DBA environment got caught out?

I’m a Database Modeler, I’ve studied it, and I’ve practiced it, I’ve applied it and I’ve learnt some things from time to time of other “experts”, but nowadays, you put a database in somebody’s hands, like MySQL which is readily available, and all of a sudden you have people claiming to know and understand database design. Food for thought.

I hope from this new Oracle 10g Express product, also comes some good support from the Oracle Community to ensure a high standard in all things databases.

Oracle for FREE

Oracle software has always been free to develop with, however to deploy you have to buy a license and for web apps, it could never be limited to users, it was limited to CPU’s and that was expensive. Well now that have released
Oracle 10g Express Edition. A free little brother to Oracle 10g Enterprise. The software I understand is identical in the base sense, with a cut back set of additional features, and limitations to CPU/Memory/Disk usage. So providing your application, or applications all on one server never reach these limits you will be fine, but if overtime your product grows or database grows you may get caught out.

Still it’s not open source, but it is FREE, and for old Oracle people such as myself, a huge benefit as it keeps my skills a little more up to date.

How do I rate it. Well if installation is any guide, I am very, very impressed (and that’s a lot for me). After downloading the RPM here is what I had to do to get be operational.

# missing library found when running rpm of oracle
# CentOS 4.1 CD #3
$ rpm -ivh /media/cdrecorder/CentOS/RPMS/libaio-0.3.103-3.i386.rpm

$ rpm -ivh oracle-xe-10.2.0.1-0.1.i386.rpm

$ /etc/init.d/oracle-xe configure

Oracle Database 10g Express Edition Configuration
————————————————-
This will configure on-boot properties of Oracle Database 10g Express
Edition. The following questions will determine whether the database should
be starting upon system boot, the ports it will use, and the passwords that
will be used for database accounts. Press to accept the defaults.
Ctrl-C will abort.

Specify the HTTP port that will be used for HTML DB [8080]:

Specify a port that will be used for the database listener [1521]:

Specify a password to be used for database accounts. Note that the same
password will be used for SYS, SYSTEM and FLOWS_020100. Oracle recommends
the use of different passwords for each database account. This can be done
after initial configuration:
Confirm the password:

Do you want Oracle Database 10g Express Edition to be started on boot (y/n) [y]:y

Configuring Database…
Starting Oracle Net Listener.
Starting Oracle Database 10g Express Edition Instance.

HTMLDB interface accessible at http://localhost:8080/htmldb
I had to find a rogue Tomcat install running on my default IP and 8080, so I had to stop and restart using /etc/rc.d/init.d/oracle-xe

And it was that easy. Now for a person that used and Installed Oracle for a living it was more complicated, and at the best of times, you would need to allocate at least an hour for a basic install. This was complete and operational in under 10 mins.

Now I’ve never installed MySQL from RPM, but I’d like to compare how easy it is to install MySQL and also required tools for administration.

MySQL 5 differences

Just a note, while MySQL provide a list of Version 5 Features (Official Data Sheet), I’ve so far found a few small things.

mysql> DESC [table], the Null column now shows NO when it was blank

When you grant ALL to a user, it’s gets CREATE VIEW privilege, but when upgrading, you have to manually specify the privilege for previous users that had grant ALL>

Some OUTER JOINS no longer work

MySQL 5 Production Release

MySQL has offically released Version 5 (5.0.15).

Just installed over the RC (5.0.13) and restarted had my development machine working fine, however now I need to more closely investigate 2 complicated queries with Outer Joins that no longer work between 4 and 5, and 2 update queries that have crashed my 5.0.13 install.

The following steps were used to upgrade from 4 to 5.0.13

MYSQL=mysql-standard-5.0.13-rc-linux-i686
cp $MYSQL.tar.gz /opt
cd /opt
tar xvfz $MYSQL.tar.gz
/etc/rc.d/init.d/mysql stop
ps -ef | grep mysql
rm -f mysql
ln -s $MYSQL mysql
cp -r $OLD/data/ mysql

du mysql/data

chown -R root /opt/mysql
chown -R mysql /opt/mysql/data
chgrp -R mysql /opt/mysql
chown -R root /opt/mysql/bin
/etc/rc.d/init.d/mysql start
ps -ef | grep mysql

/opt/mysql/bin/mysql_fix_privilege_tables –basedir=/opt/mysql –password=******

mysql -uroot -p mysql
show tables;