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Showing posts from 2006

Christmas in Oklahoma

My experiences flying have always been, well, unique is a good word. I don't know exactly what it is, but I tend to have the out of the ordinary trip every so often. Fortunately, most of these events have had little or nothing to do with the overall safety of the aircraft, but they tend to be so ridiculous, that they are amusing to me, and even more so to others.

Some examples:
I once flew from Hartford, CT to BWI next to a man with no stomach or spleen. He spent most of the 1 hour flight telling me of his woes that weekend, from his obvious health issues to his father pouring gasoline all over his car and threatening to light it on fire.Flying out of LaGuardia, we had several members of the same family from some African country on the plane, all with the same name. The gate agents were ready to hold the flight because they couldn't tell who was who, and it didn't help much that their guide was Japanese and spoke less English than his group.
I saw a little old man punch a…

Can Someone Please Put the "Smart" in SmartPhone?

Almost nothing aggravates me more than people who feel it necessary to read e-mail on their Blackberries while retrieving their bags from the overhead compartments and blocking the aisle at the same time after a 5 1/2 hour transcontinental flight. Is it THAT important that you can't wait until you're not blocking the other 150-some passengers? Surely whoever sent the e-mail doesn't know the exact time that you landed...

I've always swore to myself that I will not become one of those people.

Well, I'm closer than I ever feared, as I am now the owner of a Motorola Q - a so-called "SmartPhone". I guess calling it a "DumbPhone" may be more accurate, but a heck of a lot harder to sell to people.

The Q is not on the list of supported devices that iSync works with. That should have been more than enough of a warning sign to me that getting this thing to work with a Mac was not going to be easy.

In order to get the Mac to talk to it, you have to buy a piece…

Think Different

I've been a Mac fan since the mid-80s. I was the proud owner of a Mac IIsi and then a PowerMac 7100. Both machines got me through high school & college, where there were Macs-a-plenty. However, once I joined Oracle, I was forced back into the world of Windows.

Given that Oracle gave us Windows laptops, that's what I used for the better part of my 10 years there. The closest I came to getting a Mac was a hand-me-down old beater PowerBook G4 667Mhz that I inherited for a while. It worked, but it was definitely not in a rush to do anything. When the screen saver kicked in, the fan immediately spun into high gear.

Now that I no longer work for Oracle, I no longer get "free" laptops. I did initially buy a Dell when I left Oracle instead of the Powerbook that I really wanted, as I needed to run Oracle eBusiness Suite & TOAD.

Well, here I am almost a year later, the proud new owner of a MacBook Pro. And I couldn't be happier. Well, I could, if I got a f…

A New Oracle Blog

I noticed that Donal Daly, who work for the Server Technologies division at Oracle, has started a blog here: http://donaldaly.blogspot.com/

Donal is based out of the Dublin, Ireland Oracle office, and while I was at Oracle, I had the pleasure of working on some projects with him & his team. From what I hear, they are working on a pretty slick Microsoft Access Migration Toolkit, which will be part of Apex 3.0. Donal's team is also responsible for the Migration Workbench, which you can download for free from OTN.

Application Express in Oracle 11g

That's right - the title reads Oracle 11g. It's not a typo. In his keynote at Open World today, Oracle's VP of Server Technologies Chuck Rozwat said "the latest version of Application Express lets end-users build applications like a report generator, in as little as 30 seconds time." (see http://www.internetnews.com/ent-news/article.php/3639621 for the complete article)

This is excellent news, as this is one of the first official direct mentions of Oracle Application Express being something that Oracle is committed to for the long haul. It should also quell the fears that Apex will go down the same path that WebDB did and become abruptly extinct.

Missing OOW

Unfortunately for me, OOW just wasn't in the cards. Starting a new business and having a new baby has left me with little to no free time this year, and I just can't break away for a week. It is nice to see all of the blog posts from OOW, and it seems like Oracle really has taken over a few blocks of downtown San Francisco this year.

It's also been a while since I have updated my blog. This is largely the reason:


"Little" Isabella is almost 5 months old and has grown to 28" already! Most people think she is 1 year old, based on her height alone. She's already in 12 month clothes, and some of those seem a little tight at times. We don't know where she's getting the "tall gene" from, as noone in our families is excessively tall.

In any case, I'll be watching the developments from OOW, so for those who are blogging from there, thanks and keep up the good work!

Web Developer Toolbar for IE

Well, almost. Microsoft has made a version of the popular Firefox extension here. It's still beta, but seems to have not entirely messed up my PC yet. I have found it to be useful, as most of my clients use IE as their preferred browser, thus forcing me to do the same when testing their sites.

ApEx Home Page Facelift

Looks like the ApEx PMs have been busy, as the ApEx Home Page has been re-worked. There's not a ton of new content, but I do like the new organization of the page, especially the links to Oracle Magazine articles which feature ApEx. There's also some details on what's new in Release 2.2, which you could previously only see in an obscure corner of apex.oracle.com.

In talking with some of the folks at Oracle, there is a lot more in store, so check back every now and then to see the forthcoming changes.

Announcing the 2007 Application Express Training Conference

I'm excited to announce that Sumner Technologies, LLC in conjunction with ODTUG will be sponsoring a 2 or 3 day ApEx Training Conference sometime in early 2007. This training conference will be held in conjunction with Steven Feuerstein's PL/SQL conference. (http://oracleplsqlprogramming.com/opp2005.php)

Very few details have been worked out yet - heck, we don't even have a real name! What we do know is that we're targeting sometime in February 2007, most likely in San Francisco. The conference will also have some members of the Oracle ApEx Development team participating. I do not know how much it will cost at this point, either.

The format will likely be 1/3 lecture, 2/3 hands-on training. We have not finalized a list of topics yet. Please reply on this OTN Thread and let us know what you'd like to spend some time on - from themes to security, or anything in between.

Our thought was to cater to the more advanced users of ApEx, but I'd be interested to see if ther…

Squirrel on a Wire

This photo was taken outside my house, just across the street:


I've been told he's been up there for some time now, and when the wind blows down, you get the smell to prove it.

ODTUG Monday

Today was the 1st day of ODTUG where I did something other than speak for 5 minutes or down a couple of beers. I hopped on the Metro from Vienna (Virginia, not Austria) and was downtown well before the general sessions started. Unfortunately, I had to miss them, as I needed the time to polish off my presentation for Wednesday, "You can't do THAT with a Browser!"

I led a panel of myself and three others (Michael Snyder & Greg Jarmiolowski from CASETech, and Patrick Cimolini from the Cayman Islands Government) on Application Express. We played to a room of about 40 or so people, and took questions right until the end.

Perhaps Patrick's experiences with ApEx were the most impressive. From seeing a couple of my presentations last year, he was able to take the idea of using ApEx back to the Caymans, train his staff, and deploy 3-4 production applications in well under a year's time frame - all with no previous Oracle experience! There were some other great st…

New ODTUG Site

The Oracle Development Tools Users Group (ODTUG) just went live with their new site, just about a week before their 2006 Conference. The new site is, of course, running on Oracle Application Express, and is one of my first Internet deployed sites.

Over 1,500 documents (presentations, white papers & technical journal articles) are indexed by Oracle Text and available to Full ODTUG Members on the site. Associate Membership is free, and will give you access to a limited number of these documents.

The content of the site is managed by the ODTUG folks via a separate ApEx application. This way, they can make changes at any time, and do not require any access to the ApEx development environment. Everything from managing the Banner Ads to adding & managing content is done via this Administrative Console.

Check it out and hopefully I'll see some of you at the conference next week!

Win a Year of FREE ApEx Hosting!

If you know a thing or two about Football - and by Football, I really mean Soccer - you can win a free year of ApEx hosting, thanks to John Scott of Shellprompt .

Dimitri Gielis has put together quite an impressive World Cup 2006 "bracket" application, hosted by Shellprompt. All you need to do is sign up (it's free), enter your picks (no money is exchanged), and go cheer on your favorite team! Drinking a pint of beer from the team's home countries during the match is optional.

XM is broadcasting all of the games this year, in both English and Spanish, so I'll be sure to tune in now and then.

Another New Addition

No, not anohter baby - one is more than enough!

A few weeks ago, Sumner Technologies welcomed Josh Millinger as employee #2. Josh also comes from Oracle, where he was for over 10 years prior to leaving. During his tenure there, Josh was responsible for managing the Oracle Partner Technology Center (now called the Oracle Enterprise Technology Center) in Reston, VA.

I have known Josh personally since the 1st day I moved to the Washington, DC area, and am thrilled that he has decided to jump the ship and take the plunge into the world of small business with me.

Banner Generator

I was writing an installation script today, and wanted to have a large banner displaying the product name as part of it. I fondly remember the UNIX banner command, where you could type "banner sumner" and get something like this:

###### ## ## ## ## ## ## ######## ########
## ## ## ## ### ### ### ## ## ## ##
## ## ## #### #### #### ## ## ## ##
###### ## ## ## ### ## ## ## ## ###### ########
## ## ## ## ## ## #### ## ## ##
## ## ## ## ## ## ## ### ## ## ##
###### ####### ## ## ## ## ######## ## ##
So I SSH'ed into a Linux machine to try to get the same result quickly & easily. No dice! Not to be deterred, I hit up Google and got this link: http://www.network-science.de/ascii/

Not only can I generate a banner as I did above, but you can get all kinds of fancy, like this:

___ _ _ _ __ ___ _ __ ___ _ __
/ __| | | | '_ ` _ \| '_ \ / _ \ '__|
\__ \ |…

Ajax Memory Tree Article on OTN

My article, "Building an Ajax Memory Tree" has finally been published on OTN. It was also picked up by Ajaxian today, and got decent reviews there!

In this article, I discuss how you can use ApEx & Ajax to create a new type of Tree. This Ajax-based tree is more lightweight than the built-in ApEx tree. You can also search for a node in my version, and have the Tree automatically expand to that node - something which the built-in ApEx Tree cannot do.

To give credit where credit is due, the basis for the Tree which I create in the article is based on Carl Backstrom's Ajax-based tree.

ApEx 2.2 Evaluation

Looks like the ApEx folks have an Evaluation Version of ApEx 2.2. Just got my credentials and was able to sign on.

At first glance, you will notice that the Application Builder pages have been given a face-lift:




There are also some new icons next to the "Run" icon for Comments, Page Locks, Export the Page, and Search.

Three new Themes have made it into Release 2.2: Blue Gray, Dark Blue, & Modern. I'm a fan of Blue Gray, but could take of leave the other two.

One of my favorite new features has to be the way report columns are re-ordered. Prior to Release 2.2, each time you wanted to move a column up or down, you had to submit the page. Now, thanks to some DHTML, you can easily and quickly move columns up and down. This alone will save me time on my use of the tool.

On that same page, each section has been moved to a DHTML "hide & show" region - no more scrolling to the lower depths of the page to set up CSV export! This approach was also implemented…

A New Addition

On Wednesday, April 27th, we welcomed Isabella Lillian Spendolini into the world. She was 7 lbs 7 oz and 20". Both mom and little Izzy are doing well.

All three of us have been trying to get some rest this week. Fortunately, Grandma is in town and has taken over pretty much all day to day tasks.

ApEx Open Source Applications

There is now an ApEx project on SourceForge.net. There is also a Project Home Page, hosted on apex.oracle.com here.

According to the site, the goal of the project is to "facilitate development of Oracle Application Express (APEX) applications until they gain enough momentum of their own to become their own separate projects." Some of the initial projects include a Forum, Wiki, Blog, and AskSomeone, which if you can't tell, is based on AskTom.oracle.com.

This move represents another step in the maturity of ApEx as a development environment. As this project grows, more "cookie cutter" applications will be available for common tasks, making it even easier and quicker to deploy ApEx applications.

Custom Export to CSV

It's been a while since I've updated my blog. I've been quite busy lately, and just have not had the time that I used to. We're expecting our 1st child in just a few short weeks now, so most of my free time has been spent learning Lamaze breathing, making the weekly run to Babies R Us, and relocating my office from the larger room upstairs to the smaller one downstairs - which I do happen to like MUCH more than I had anticipated. I have everything I need within a short walk - a bathroom, beer fridge, and 52" HD TV. I only need to go upstairs to eat and sleep now, but alas, this will all change soon...

Recently, I was asked if you could change the way Export to CSV in ApEx works. The short answer is, of course, no. But it's not too difficult to "roll your own" CSV export procedure.

Why would you want to do this? Well, the customer's requirement was to manipulate some data when the Export link was clicked, and then export it to CSV in a format…

Page 0 Branches

What? There's no way to put a Branch on Page 0 of an ApEx application! Or is there...

Technically, no - page 0 does not support branches. But how many times do you wish it did?

This scenario recently came up: I wanted to put a "Search" box on every page in my application, so no matter where a user is, they can search the site. Currently, it has 10 or so pages, but this will grow to closer to 50 by production.

So, thought #1 was to put an text item on Page 0, call it search, and then ensure that each and every page had some sort of Branch to run the search. Not so fun, as this was a tedious task, even for just 10 pages. And each time a new page was added to the application - by myself or anyone else - the search branch would have to be added to the page. Clearly not a scalable solution.

With a little bit of help from Raj from the ApEx team, I came up with this solution:
Create Page 0, if you haven't alreadyOn page 0, create an item of type "Text Field (Always…

Yahoo Releases Free UI Library

As noted on Boing Boing, Yahoo! just released its UI Library, an open-source set of AJAX user interface components that developers can use in their sites for free!

From Trees to Sliders, some of these components look quite slick! The real challenge here is not getting them to work with Oracle ApEx, but rather finding practical applications for them. So often I see sites where AJAX is used for the sake of using AJAX, and the result is just a mess.

What intriques me are the reasons behind this. As I've been told many times, there is no such thing as a free anyyhing - it's just a question of when and how you pay. Perhaps Yahoo is trying to steer developers to its services (Maps, Calendar, Mail, etc.) in a pre-emptive strike against Google?

Should be interesting to see how it all plays out.

Learning DIVs

Recently, I’ve been experimenting with using DIVs instead of TABLEs for creating Region Templates in Oracle Application Express.

DIVs seem to have a lot less “moving parts” – or places where the code can become corrupted. Troubleshooting a missing <TD> tag is never a fun exercise, and by using DIVs, you can largely avoid that.

However, DIVs tend to have issues with cross-browser development. What looks great on Firefox doesn’t even render on MSIE. That alone can be a challenge to troubleshoot,

Having said all of this, I was able to take this Region Template:


<table width="100%" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" id="#REGION_ID#">
<tr>
<td>
<table border="0" cellpadding="1" cellspacing="0" width="100%">
<tr>
<td bgcolor="#666666">
<table border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="100%" bgcolor="#FFFFFF…

A new name for Oracle HTML DB

That's right - Oracle HTML DB has officially been renamed to Oracle Application Express. You still don't need Oracle Application Server, and it has nothing to do with Oracle Express or Express Objects, but it does coincide with the name of Oracle Express Edition Database.

This renaming campaign came up once every few months or so when I was at Oracle, as we could never quite come to a consensus on what it should be renamed to. Looks like somoene finally made the call!

My only fear with this new name is that people will associate Application with Oracle Application Server, as in it's a required component (as I said before, it still isn't) and Express with "small and insignificant", which is clearly not the limitations of HTML DB - umm, Application Express. It's going to take some getting used to...

Username and Password on Every Page

Well, not really, as that would be bad. However, I’ve often wondered how to include a field for the username and password on every public page, making the sign on process one less click. Well, there’s nothing like learning how to do something like having a customer requirement!

A current client wants a largely public site – that is, you do not need to authenticate to see most of it. Simple enough – just set the Page Attributes Security to Page is Public. However, the client also wanted the username and password field to appear on each and every public page.

From a developer point of view, I didn’t want to have to put any items on any page aside from Page Zero. Thus, every time that I add a page to the application, the login region would simply show up. This required a bit more thought.

Here’s what I came up with: I created a region on Page Zero which holds my username and password fields, as well as a Login button. The button is not an item button, but rather a true button which…

QuickBooks

Starting your own business makes you learn how to play many roles: project manager, consultant, marketing department, technical support, “executive”, and – worst of all – accountant.

I say that because I really, really, really hate accounting. Maybe I just had a bad experience in college, and could never really appreciate it. Perhaps I’m even a bit ignorant about it. In any case, there’s software out there to help someone like me. Right?

I bought QuickBooks based on several recommendations from co-workers. The folks at Intuit have done a tremendous job! That is, if their job was to create the most un-user friendly, non-intuitive, archaic piece of software.

I don’t even know where to start. They tried way too hard to over-engineer the UI. Everything is “cute”, with arrows, icons, and more reminders than I care to mention. In an attempt to account for every possible “use case”, they have created something that is far less usable than intended. All I need to do is send out invoic…