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;