Friday, September 28, 2012 Now Running on APEX

I'm happy to announce that starting today, is running on Oracle Application Express and has replaced, which was running in parallel with since July.

We spruced things up a little bit, created a new UI, and also created some new features & sections - some on the front end, others on the back end.  What many people will notice is that the APEX URL syntax is missing.  We decided to use mod_rewrite rules to give each page a more search engine friendly URL.  How we did all of this - and how it requires zero maintenance - is a great subject for future post.

Have a look and let me know what you think!  I'll be the one in the corner feverishly working on my OOW presentations.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Oracle Wallet Configuration

Oracle Wallet is a finicky little tool.  However, when you want to make outgoing HTTPS calls from the database, it's a necessary evil.  While the tool itself is straightforward enough, the steps to follow in order to configure it are not as clear.

During my research, I came across what is perhaps the best step-by-step document for configuring Oracle Wallet that I have seen.  Jeff Hunter's blog walks through the process in great detail, accounting for even the most minor of details.  You can see his Oracle Wallet post here:

While this is definitely not something that I'll need daily, it's definitely getting bookmarked for the next time I'm faced with configuring Oracle Wallet.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Windows 7 VM Suspending

It's an unavoidable fact of life as a web developer - you have to test on IE at some point.  The sooner, the better, in my experience.  As a Mac user, I run Windows and Linux in VMWare.  The benefits of this are huge, and most readers don't need them re-iterated here, so I'll spare everyone.

What did get annoying is that my Windows 7 VM would mysteriously go to sleep, thus causing VMWare to suspend it after some period of idle time.  I looked all over VMWare for a sleep or suspend setting, and found nothing that seemed to point to solving my issue, as it kept happening.

It seems that by default, Windows 7 will put the system to sleep after 30 minutes of inactivity, as evidenced by this screen shot:

Setting the 2nd setting to Never and saving my changes should prevent the VM from suspending in the future.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Platform Innovation

With the introduction of the iPhone 5, one new feature has more people abuzz than any other: the new adapter.  Instead of the traditional 30-pin dock connector that has become ubiquitous in everything from consumer electronics to luxury cars, Apple has opted to introduce a new, proprietary 8-bin connector dubbed "Lightning".  I think that I speak for most of us Apple product owners when I say that as soon as this was announced, you did a mental tally of all of the devices and cables that would eventually have to be replaced, and I wasn't too happy with the resulting number.

Yes, it will be a pain to replace all of my cables and devices that use the older connector, but we'll all complain about, get angry, and eventually over time, forget about it.  Like the CD drive.  Or floppy drive.  Or the replaceable battery.
My point here is not to get into a "who innovates more" argument, but rather highlight a type of innovation that is very much organic to Apple and its overall strategy: platform innovation.  Apple is more than willing to take the bold step of admitting (or what some may consider dictating) when a feature or product has seen better days, and simply eliminate that feature entirely.  

Let's start with the floppy disk.  With the original Mac, Apple bucked the industry and chose a newer, smaller format for it's floppy disk.  In this case, different was good, as it had a higher capacity and was much more durable that it's 5 1/4" counterpart.  It took a few years, but eventually, Macs and PCs alike both standardized on the 3 1/2" floppy as their standard drive.

Despite Apple's introduction of the 3 1/2" drive, it was also the format's assassin, as as they eliminated any floppy drive on the original iMac.  At the time, this seemed like a dangerous move, as a lot of software was still distributed via floppy disks, and almost all documents were saved on them if they needed to be moved to another workstation.  But over time, all other manufacturers followed suit, and now you'd be hard-pressed to find any PC or Mac with a floppy drive.

Next, consider OS X.  Initially, any older Mac application writen for System 8 or 9 would run in an emulator dubbed Rosetta.  This was great and even necessary, as initially there were few native applications built for OS X, and Apple needed to ensure compatibility.  But at some point - and I can't remember the specific release - Apple said no more emulation.  Many of us grumbled that we'd have to re-purchase the same software for the newer OS, but we all did, and I think that OS X is better for having eliminated this type of legacy support.

Apple also killed the removable battery - first in the iPhone, and later in the MacBook line.  This decision allowed for larger, more expensive batteries that would in theory give you more usage time.  I do believe that the verdict is still out on this one, as Apple's competitors use this as a weakness to this day, as few others have adopted this strategy.

This brings us to the new dock connector.  Of course, its too early to tell what will happen as a result of this.  My prediction - given past history - is nothing.  Once the 3rd party market starts cranking out $5 adaptors, this perceived pain will vanish, and we'll forget about any impact that this decision has made.  Apple will, once again, benefit from being able to determine if and when something is no longer useful, and force that decision upon its customers, for better, worse, or nothing at all.

This strategy can be applied to how we develop applications, too.  There will come a time when an old technology or feature or even method simply does not apply anymore.  The pain of removing the outdated component is always perceived to be high, but the relief of a better alternate approach over time will benefit everyone.  

Implementing a platform innovation is never easy, and often they are done in the wrong places.  But when they are done properly and in the right places, we all benefit in the long run.