Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Interesting Site

I came across this site, Textbook Revolution whilst browsing for freebies. Tom Kyte wrote about free stuff that he uses and I went and browse through my own free stuff.

Anyhow, I have not yet browse thoroughly through Textbook Revolution yet but some stuff already look promising. For example, the following free online course on Enterprise Security is something that I'm interested in and over the next few weeks will try out the course.

Granted that not all the free books are totally currently but I would say a good portion seems to be at least a couple of years (2003) and should still be valid for basic concepts and minor updates to syntax and language.

Obviously if you find any links to copyrighted materials, please feel free to contact the webmaster of Textbook Revolution so that they can be removed. It would be a shame to see this wonderful resource shut down because of one bad link.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Season's Greetings...

I want to take this opportunity to say "Thank you" to all who visited my blog over the year and to wish you all a very festival and safe holiday season with best wishes for the upcoming New Year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Dealin' with mole hills

This blog entry was started before Christmas but never got around to finishing it until now.

Sorry that it has been a while. Been busy at work with all these projects basically sreaming for resources. I wanted to talk about an incident that happened at my place of work. Last Friday (Dec 16th) at 5:30 pm (past working hours), a colleague sent an email cc'ing my manager and the Manager of Security which basically stated that the sky is falling because we have given the keys to our servers to consultants and a whole bunch of the consultants now have priviledged access and could be install rootkits and backdoors and what not on those servers.

Obviously you could imagine the reaction from the Manager of Security at this "faus pax". A meeting was demanded and I am to explain how did this happen and what we needed to do to fix and prevent it from happening again.

I was angry as I read through the email as it contains allegations that might or might not be true. For example, there was an allegation that the root password was known to a bunch of consultants. I was also mad because the email caught me by surprise and I think it was something that could be resolved (if necessary) without making a mountain out of a mole hill.

Anyhow, my first task was to confirnm the facts before venting on the colleague and a request was sent to him to get the names of the consultants allegedly having access to the root account. The reply didn't surprise me at all as there were no evidence to support the allegations but the colleague had gotten the information from one of my guys! The excuse from my guy was that he had assumed that if one consultant has access, the rest of the consultants also has access after all they are consultants and have no morals!

Anyhow, the bottom line was that there was no basis to the allegations and the meeting that took place ended up with hardly any action items other than the Manager of Security to draft a Terms of Reference for current and future consultants as to their responsibilities and non-disclosure for matters related to my organization.

So, what's wrong with an employee raising concerns (valid or not)? Well, the concerns themselves are not the issue (other than the fact that they are not valid) but more so the approach taken. In this particular case, there is only one person at fault (the colleague). Why? You ask. Well, there is no evidence that my employee went directly to my colleague to complain. What my colleague should have done was to either advise my employee to raise those concerns with me OR bring those concerns to me. He also make a faux pas by not going to my manager directly but instead raised it to other managers outside of the group.

Now, what if the concerns were raised to appropriate folks and nothing was done? I would advise a couple of things: a) if the folks that you had raised your concerns to promised to do something but didn't, then send them a gentle reminder; b) if the concerns are ignored, then draft a proposed strategy to mitigate the risk - this way, the concerns are addressed and you don't put yourself on your manager's black list for not being a team player. Of course there are other options, like leaving the organization, transferring out of your current group, etc. but I am assuming that you enjoy where you are working and just wanted to make sure that concerns are raised and addressed.

With my colleague, I am more relunctant to share nontask-related information in case he uses the information out of context to either futher his own aims or by accident. I will still be a team player where it is necessary but no more and no less with this particular colleague (after all, you don't have to be best buddies to work together).

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Interesting E-mail

Today I received an email in one of my web email accounts professing to be from the CIA. The text of the message is as follows with a sending address of mail@cia.gov:
Dear Sir/Madam,

we have logged your IP-address on more than 30 illegal Websites.

Please answer our questions!
The list of questions are attached.

Yours faithfully,
Steven Allison

++++ Central Intelligence Agency -CIA-
++++ Office of Public Affairs
++++ Washington, D.C. 20505

++++ phone: (703) 482-0623
++++ 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., US Eastern time

Now I'm sure Mr. Allison is a real person at the CIA and the telephone number is probably legit. Now if I were an American citizen who is clueless about the Internet , I might respond to the e-mail by opening the attachment (a zip file no less) which contains the latest variant of the Sober worm. You would think that the kiddie scripters would know better and construct a more formal e-mail than one like the one above. One thing for sure is that this particular e-mail account of mine do get a lot of junk e-mail including Paypal scams, Nigerian scams and the various lottery winner scams. The problem is that it is almost impossible to track the sender of the e-mail even though the originating IP-based sender is shown to be an ISP based in Malaysia. Obviously these scams do work as it only take one to be sucked in to make it worthwhile. While most that I have seen are done via e-mail, there was one where I got sent official looking documentation via regular mail.

So, bottom line, never open any emails from folks that you don't know and also be wary of emails professing to be from well known companies (e.g. PayPal, your bank) as more than likely they are phising emails.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Update - BC politicians pay raises

Within 24 hrs, the Opposition Leader, Carole James, flip-flopped and refuse to support the legislation (Bill 17) that was passed in record time which gave all the elected politians a 15 to 31% pay increase.

Yesterday, the Government introduced Bill 19 to repeal Bill 17 which was passed so none of the MLA will be getting any pay increases. The smart move is to introduce legislation that would tie the MLA compensation to the rate of inflation and cost of living.

Anyhow, this debacle high lighted the current flawed system and also put the Opposition in a very bad light. I mean, if they were so concerned with public outcry, why unanimously voted for the pay increases. What's also upsetting was that one elected member, Lorne Maynecourt (Lib), screamed, yelled, and voted against repealling the pay hike. This coming from a fellow who won the election by a mere 12 votes??? Time to recall this elected official and sent him packing. The greedy pig!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

BC Politicians voted themselve a hefty pay raise!

I can't believe it as I was driving home from work today. The radio announced that the MLA (Members of the Legislative Assembly) had voted themselves a minimum of 15% (with some as high as 40%). In one afternoon, the Government managed to rammed through this pay raise (Bill 17) with all members (including Opposition) voted in support of passing the bill. Shame! Not one stood up to voice their concerns. I guess all politicians are alike (line their own pockets while standing up in public to denounce the poor working people).

This is unbelievable as a short few weeks ago, the Government was telling the teachers that they (the teachers) will not be getting any increases (zip, zilch, nada) but here we are, the MLAs will have a base compensation of $86.5K plus additional compensation based on their portfolio. If this keeps up, there will be combustion point (much like what is happening in France) and you will have people on the streets screaming for change (remember the French Revolution?).

Obviously the current political system is so flawed and so open to abuse that something has to be done. It's time that the general population rise up and kick these scumbags out of the seat of power! I think it's time for a new party with the right Principles and Ideals that will appeal to both the business leaders and the working folks.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

October 2005 CPU

Pete Finningan pointed out a post on Bugtraq that documents some problems with the recently released Oct 2005 CPU patch. I was quite concerned when I saw Pete's entry as we have yet to apply the patch and if it causes problems, then we will have to hold off.

A further look into the Bugtraq posting shows that one of the problem identified was the unfixing of an old vulnerbility but that is only applicable to Oracle as per the post, "the October 2005 CPU fails to install the
patched Oracle Text (CTXSYS) components on Oracle on all operating
. On top of that, it's a simple fix as the "flaw" as in the execution of an incorrect procedure. You can review the details here.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Blogging commitment

I must start off by apologizing for not posting any entries for the last few weeks. It's been hectic at work but I think I need to at least commit to posting at least one entry per week. When I first started this, it was a means for me to let off some steam and vent but as more and more folks start reading the blog, it became more of a commitment than I expected. Anyhow, from hereon, I will try my best to post on a more regular basis.

I've been keeping up on some stuff and also reading up on subjects that I'm not familiar with but have some responsibility in ensuring that it runs (for example, SAN). We have been experiencing problems with our SAN (IBM storage, FalconStor and HP-UX combo) and I've been reading SAN for Dummies. So far, couple of things that me; The first one was this statement, "To store information, the computer uses a series of eight bits, or one byte of data. A byte is eight characters of data. Therefore, it takes eight bits to make a byte. The letter A is store on your computer as a byte of data." Hmm, I still don't get it. The other one was the words, "fibre" vs "fiber" and how it was the French who uses "fibre". Hmmm, I think "fibre" is the right term (i.e. Queen English) all that.

Another thing that came to my attention was this headline from ZDnet, Tsunami Hacker" which seems to be a over-reaction to hacking based on new legislation. I mean if all the guy did was to browse the directories (since they were left open), I don't think that's hacking at all. It like saying that I have an open house and folks came in and started opening doors to check out the house and I can charge them with B & E if they open doors to rooms that I want to keep shut but not locked. How do they tell the difference between what was allowed and not (if doors to both are shut and not locked)?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

VMPlayer ...

I was going to write an entry on this. For those who attended Oracle Open World 2005, you would have received 2 DVDs containing the pre-built Oracle 10g virtual environment on Red Hat Linux. These are the same DVDs listed on the Oracle-on-Linux Virtual Machine.

Instead, Lewis Cunningham is going through the same process and has started blogging about it so read his entries and I will supplement whenever I can by posting comments on his blog.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Wikipedia Entries - Oracle-related

For those who don't already know, Wikipedia is a community-based effort to provide a free online encyclopedia. Obviously the project has spawned a number of other efforts and it's all good stuff. This is all done with contributions from volunteers from all over the world.

Of course, Oracle Corporation has an entry but do you know that Tom Kyte also has an entry as a Computer Specialist? You can also volunteered to help fill in more information on any subject that you know of. Everything is done by peer review and obviously incorrect facts and opinions are removed. Mike Ault is listed but not Don Burleson nor is Cary Milsap or Jonathan Lewis.

I will be contributing to some articles but probably not Oracle related but my other passion, badminton. Check out Wikipedia and if you have the time, please contribute.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

5 years later...another closure

Last Friday I received a letter from Ernest & Young and I couldn't figure out why E & Y would be mailing me after all I don't have regular dealings with them. It turned out to be a letter informing me (as a creditor) that the bankruptcy proceedings of my former employers have wrapped up and that their fees (almost $80,000) as trustees/receivers exceeded the 7.5% of the amount left after the realization (sale) of all assets.

In one of my previous life, I was the Director of Application Development for this dot com organization (a New Media company) which has since went under over 5 years ago (Apr 2000). Obviously the employees (including me) were caught but we were lucky enough to get all our pay except for pay increases (which were retroactive) promised.

I had filed claim papers on behalf of everyone to the Employment Office which has since been downsized by the current Liberal administration and had thought that everything would have been wrapped up long before then. There were no way that the employees will be able to get all the monies owed to them even though the current Corporation Act do hold board members personally liable for employees wages.

Anyhow, it seems that another chapter in my life is closing and it was with a sense of regret that we didn't quite make it (i.e. survive the tech bubble burst) but it was fun while it lasted. I'm just surprised that it took this long to wrap up everything but then I'd heard a few rumours of complications including the disappearance of assets just before the company file for bankruptcy so maybe that's why it took this long. When they auctioned off the majority of the assets (office furniture, computers, etc), an acquitance actually ended buying the laptop that I used as he phoned me to help him get access to the machine (the trustees didn't bothered with wiping the drive) along with all the programs, data, and documents.

C'est la vie!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Oracle Oct 05 CPU

As scheduled, Oracle released its latest Critical Patch Update (CPU Oct 05) and a number of folks have provided comments including:

a) Pete Finnigan's Weblog;
b) Red Database Security; and
c) Integrigy with analysis.

I'm sure that there are others but I have not had the chance to go through the notes yet and would suggest that you take a look at the links above and bring yourself up to speed on the fixes and then decide whether you need to apply to your particular situation and if so, a plan should be prepared.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Teachers' Strike Update

In one of my previous post, I talked about the upcoming teachers' strike. Well, it's now into its second week and no sign that it will be over pretty soon. Just to recap:
- after months of negotiation, there were no agreement. Contract expired June 2004
- teachers' union held a strike vote with 80+% voting to strike.
- government pre-empt by tabling legislation (Bill 12) to impose (extend) expired contract to June 2006
- teachers walked off before legislation passed
- Labour Relations Board (appointed positions) ruled strike to be illegal
- BC Supreme Court sided with LRB and rule union in contempt
- Government declared that there is no way they are willing to talk to law-breakers
- BC Fed of Labour and various other unions pledged their support to the teachers
- Supreme court freeze assets of BC Teachers Federation and declared that teachers cannot be paid their strike pay.
- Unions organized a day of protest where over 10,000 workers descended on the lawns of the legislative buildings in Victoria (capital of BC) and effectively shut down most services within the Greater Victoria Region.
- Premier finally held a press conference to say that he "see nothing wrong with the teachers accepting the imposed contract for another 9 months with no pay increases while the negotiation/bargaining process is being reworked."
- Government appointed a special prosecutor to see if criminal contempt charges should be brought against the union and its members.
- Business leaders held press conference to denounce the unions' actions and declare that it is a shame that support was being pledged to "law breakers" (Bill 12 became law). NB: Bill 12 is actually in violation of International Labour laws so are the business leaders denouncing the Liberal government for breaking International Labour laws?
- News media showed recent polls of support for teachers (57%)
- Teachers are defiant and stressed that their strike is not about pay but better quality education (class sizes and additional funding for resources).

It's a fine mess and it seems that the government is determined to propose and pass legislation to get their way and in the meanwhile, the children suffers. I am obviously distraught at the heavy-handedness of the government and the refusal of key players (e.g Supreme court) to stand up to something that is so obviously unfair (the removal of the teachers rights to fair compensation and the right to strike).

Right now, it seems that both sides are quite dug in and probably so in order not to lose face. It probably will take a third-party to broker a deal so that neither side will be seen as the loser. Only time will tell but let's hope that it can be resolved within this week as any longer, the higher grade students will be behind in their preparations for the Provincial exams which will impact their chances of attending university. An updated news story is available here.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Workplace Bullying - Part I

Bullies...who hasn't encountered one? They are part and parcel of life and come in various forms and sizes. One trait that they all shared is that they are insecured and they masked this insecurity by picking on folks who either would not fight back or were too afraid. I've had my share of bullies while growing up and have gotten into a few fights where I won and also lost. Nowadays, it's different as more than likely the bullies are in a group and even if it's one-on-one, the chances of the bully coming back with friends are pretty high (as in swarming).

Bullying occurs in various forms but basically it's an attempt to frighten, to coerce and to intimidate. It could be the government (e.g. the government vs the BC Teachers Federation) or it could be an organization/individual.

So, what do you do if you have a workplace bully? It depends on whether you are a co-worker or a manager. Let's start with the co-worker scenario as this is likely more common. Let's say that you or another co-worker has been subjected to this bully. First thing would be tell the bully that his/her behaviour is unacceptable and point out specific instances (NB: Keep to the specifics as most likely the bully will try and divert attention to some trivial non-issues). This should be followed up by telling him/her that it would be taken up to management if it continues. Once it's brought to management attention, it then becomes an issue for management to deal with as it should be. If management refuses to deal with the situation then maybe it's time to move on to a different organization. Seriously, you spend a good portion of your life working and why should you do it in an organization that doesn't value your commitment?

That's it for the employee/co-worker portion. What happen if the bully is your supervisor/manager instead of a co-worker and you don't feel comfortable with confronting your supervisor/manager? My suggestion is to approach HR and seek their advice. I would even go as far as to have an HR rep present when you meet with your supervisor/manager to discuss the bullying issue. NB: Please do keep in mind that HR represent the employer - in this case, the organization not the manager/supervisor.

In part II, I will focus on the managerial portion of dealing with Workplace Bullying. If you are in Canada, here's a link to the Canada Safety Council on Workplace Bullying.

Bloggers rejoice

I was referred to the following outcome of a Delaware Supreme Court ruling on the case of a lawsuit filed to try and unmask anonymous bloggers (NY Times article). Obviously this just another step for folks who are willing to voice their opinions on public matters. You can download the ruling document here

While it looks like this Supreme Court ruling will set the standard for future and similar cases, it is still doesn't mean that anyone can willy nilly post defamatory statements about anyone. There are still a number of cases outstanding in the various courts across the USA. But one thing that stood out from this ruling is that the Supreme Court Judge was able to differentiate between 'fishing' and definite defamation.

Another interesting case to track is currently in process and it involves an individual and a corporation. Details can be found here. This one is a little more complicated but the Electronic Freedom Foundation is keeping tabs.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Interesting Opinion (Open Letter) from D. Litchfield

Bugtraq has a posting by David Litchfield on the sad state of (non)security in the Oracle software suite. Cesar Cerrudo of Argeniss also added his voice to David's opinion.

What worries me is Cesar's "threat" to release 0day exploits to force Oracle to take a serious approach to fixing the flaws that have been identified. Many of which are supposely "fixed" by the various CPU patches and Alert 68. I sure hope that it does not come to that and I look forward to Mary-Ann Davidson's response of their strategy to fix the flaws (now and future).

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The BC Liberals Government are morons and bullies

The teachers in the Province of British Columbia have been without a contract since June 2004 when their last contract with the government expired. In that contract, the basic terms were 0%, 0% and 0% pay raises over the three-year contract period. Under the new negotiations, the teachers are asking for a 2% increase per year over 3 years with market adjustments of 2%, 3% and 4% (market adjustments to bring the teachers' salary up to par with their counterparts in other parts of the country). The news media have seized on this as the union asking for a 15% increase which is a red herring as it's 4%, 5% and 6% over the years. Other requests included reduced class sizes which the government took away in the last contract.

The response from the government in the form of the Labour Minister, Mike de Jong, was the introduction of legislation (Bill 12) which is to extend the expired contract from June 2004 to June 2006 taking away the teachers' right to stand up for their rights (legally). That's just plain mean and the tactics of a bully. Now if the teachers decided to take job action, they will be breaking the law and there will be consequences which would include large fines and possible jail time for the Executives. The government had lots of time to negotiated before the contract expired last June but no, they have wait until this year to start talks and are offering a 0% increase over the three years with no major concessions.

As a parent of school-aged kids, I'm very concerned about the impact to my kids' education but I'm even more alarmed with the heavy handedness of the government. Remember this is the same government who tore up the contract for the nursing union (a contract that was negotiated in good faith) because it didn't suit them. This is a government that is led by a man convicted of drunk driving (driving under the influence) who have no morals or principles and have shown to be mean-spirited (as is evidenced when the opposition party could only garter two seats out of 77 but needed 3 to gain opposition funding and the Premier flat out refused thereby effectively making a government without any official opposition). NB: This was during the first term and they are currently on their second term with a lot less seats won.

Right now, it's confirmed that the teachers will stage a wildcat strike and walk off the job this Friday to protest against the passing of this legislation.

The teachers have my thanks and support for standing up to a bully.

Addendum: Now the government is threatening to fire any teachers who participate in the scheduled illegal strike (which over 90% voted in favour of).

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Minutemen Border Project

NB: I did this blog yesterday but for some reason, Blogger didn't post it.

Well, they started down south early this year in patrolling the US/Mexican border and now they are monitoring the US/Canadian border. Who are these folks, the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps? Patriots or Racists? A spokeswoman for the group has this to said (taken from FOXNews.com),
“Canada has extremely lax laws allowing people to come in and live there from Middle Eastern countries,” said Connie Hair, a spokeswoman for the group. “If you’re from the Middle East, it only makes sense that you might be in a Middle Eastern terror cell.”

That sounded like racial profilling to me. What's next? How about targeting the Chinese community as it is possible that they might be spies for the Chinese Government or the Koreans as they could be sleepers for the N. Korean government?

Now, obviously, these folks are armed (as per the US Consitution rights to bear arms) and even though the policy is only to monitor and report, I can see situations occuring where accidental shootings might happen. What would you do if after you have crossed the border legally and ran into a truckful of armed men? I would probably hit the gas to get the heck out of there which could then be interpreted as having something to hide and I can just see these guys shooting away.

Scary stuff and another factor to consider when planning a trip to the US by land.

NB: Edited to remove an incorrect assumption on my part. See comments for details

Monday, September 26, 2005

"Censorship" and "Accountability"

I was reading Mark Rittman's blog on "UKOUG, Oaktable and Blogging Confidentiality" as well Niall Litchfield's "Confidentiality and Blogging" and Tom Kyte's Off-Record entries and some of the comments made to those blog entries touched on the issues of "Accountability" and "Censorship" as it relates to publishers and authors.

Do you as a reader have a trust that the publisher will provide quality, correct and factual information on articles that they published? In the event of an opinion piece, that the publishers allows for the pros and cons debate to happen with minimal censorship? Minimal censorship in terms of editing/deleting comments that are personal attacks but keeping the contents relating to the debate intact. For example, the recent Burleson's article on "Undocumented Parameters to Supersize your SGA" led to very heated discussion between various folks including Tom Kyte, Jonathan Lewis, Don Burleson & Mike Ault amongst others. The article itself was edited a couple of times so that it is almost different from the original article but still "useless" (IMHO) BUT with no indications as to what was corrected/edited. Because SearchOracle did not provide a forum for discussing said article, Tom and others facilitate that by creating their own blog entries on the subject. This lead to a number of exchanges between various supporters of Burleson and Kyte which sometimes degenerated into personal attacks. Tom as a result subsequently get anonymous postings questioning his creditials and other childish nonsense.

Another similar incident involved Fabian Pascal (and others) and Curt Monash who writes for ComputerWorld. In this instance, ComputerWorld decided to let Monash's piece stand (although it apparently went through a rewrite ala Burleson) but remove all comments with a note from the editor which states
"This blog post has been edited. Additionally, this comment thread has been closed, in line with Computerworld's Terms of Service. Computerworld wants to foster a civil and respectful debate over important IT issues, but this thread has become too personal and not useful to Computerworld's audience of IT professionals. Certain comments may be reposted at a later date, but new comments will be disabled."
My understanding is that some of the comments have also been edited without the consent of the original posters which begats the question of "If and when comments are reposted, are these the original comments or have they been re-edited"?

Anyhow, do ComputerWorld not have the accountability and responsibility to ensure that a balanced perspective is provided instead of "censoring" the various opinions of folks? This is similar to Robert Freeman (a Burleson consultant) who decided to let a comment by his boss stand whereas a rebuttal to that comment was removed and thereby providing a skewed perspective. NB: If you are interested in taking a look, go to his site and do a search for "Evil".

Personally, there is a fine line and I would support "censorship" when it removes the garbage and keeps the relevant content and if this is identified in the Terms and Policies, there should not be any problems with posters. The other upside is that the removal of the non-relevant garbage will help with potential legal action from folks who are nursing bruised egos. The bottom line is still the need to identify that said article/posts have been edited and why. What bothered me about the approach that ComputerWorld took was that they edited the original article and left a note to that effect but you have no idea what was edited (just like Burleson's article) unless you have saved a copy of the original. The other thing was the censorship done which apparently left a skewered perspective on the debate generated. So much for freedom of speech.

NB: This entry was edited to correct grammar and typos - corrections are shown in non blocked italics and one addition added. *Blocked italics are quotes taken from other public sites or comments.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Aftermath of Don Burleson's "Undocumented Parameters"

It has been a very interesting and informative period following the shenaningans of the Burleson's gangs (supposely employees/associates and supporters) as they tried to deflect attention from the contents of the article that Burleson has written for SearchOracle. I'm sure SearchOracle doesn't mind the "debate" as it must have generated a bunch of web traffic for them.

What is now interesting are the "attempts" by persons unknown although implied (as traced most likely via IP addresses to be known person who we shall refer to as pseudonym) who would post comments on Tom Kyte's blog like the following:

Anonymous said....
Are you even Oracle certified?

Anonymous said...
Dear Tom,
Can you post your resume on this site? We ought to determine your 'employability factor' since you have not completed your Oracle Certification exam yet!

There are of course others and not just to Tom's blog but also on his "AskTom" forum.

The behaviour exhibited by this particular person is like that of a five year old child who having lost the argument resort to name calling and basically making a nuisance of himself.

Maybe, pseudonym has gotten himself to a point where he thinks that he has no alternative but to resort to this behaviour. I would say that he still has alternatives and I would suggest that one of the first thing to do is correct the article and provide credit due (to Tom & Jonathan) and secondly to apologize for such childish behaviour. No one is going to think less of the fellow but that's not to say that he doesn't have quite a lot of work to do to regain the trust within the Oracle community as to his professionalism and knowledge as an Oracle "expert".

Maybe I'm more forgiving for I could picture Howard J Rogers shaking his head vigourly in disagreement but hey, life is just too short. Let's move on and get with the program.


When I first started this blog, the whole idea was to allow me to have an outlet to vent my thoughts on various issues which may or may not be IT-related much less Oracle-related but I realized that the folks who might be interested are mostly IT-related folks so I've decided that future entries will be IT-related and management-related but I will still write and vent my thoughts on other issues although I might not publish them on the blog (i.e. they will probably stay as drafts. Writing to vent seems to help with providing an outlet to de-stress (if that's a proper word).

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Telus Mobility's Customer Loyalty Program is an Oxymoron

I've been a Telus Mobility customer since 2000 and have been on their month to month payment plan since my original 3-year plan expired. Recently I received a letter from Telus with an offer for me (as an existing customer) to replace my 5-yr old phone if I agree to lock in for a set period and the offer consists of:

1-year - either a 50 minute bundle or a Smart Bundle for 12 months;
2-year - Free Nokia 3205i phone or either the 50 minute or Smart Bundle for 24 months;
3-year - $150 phone discount or a $200 discount on Blackberry or the Smart Bundle for 36 months.

I thought "Great. I can upgrade to a newer phone." and went online to check out the various phones and found one, a Motorola V710 which is $149.99 for a 3-year activation. "Hmm, I got a $150 credit so phone's free if I lock in for 3 years." I thought and look through the various features of the phone, speakerphone, 500 number phone directory, camera, etc which sounds good. So I went into one of their dealers and the guy look up my details and so on and got confirmation that my discount do apply to the phone in question. I was happy eventhough the guy told me that they will have to charge me $35 to activate the new phone. I was told to come back in about 15 minutes while they do up the paperwork and activate the phone.

Away I went to do some errands and I came back for the phone. As usual, I got the sales pitch for buying extended warranty (it's a waste of money for the customer but a money maker for the retailer - I should know as I used to work for big electronics retailer who basically generated a lot of revenue on sales of extended warranties) which I turn down. I signed the 3-year agreement and the guy went and enter the details into the POS and turned around and tells me that the total is $210.00 plus taxes! I go "Huh?" I would have thought that $149.99 - $150 credit + $35 activation would be $34.99 plus taxes. Hmm, something is not right here so I looked through the item lines and see a $349.99 price for the phone which with my discount would be $200. Wait a minute, I thought the phone is only $149.99 with a 3-year activation and I pointed to the display tag in the store which states 3-year, phone = $149.99. Oh no, goes the salesperson, it's only for new activations.

Okay, let's see. I've been a faithful Telus Mobility customer for the last five years and to lock myself in for another 3 years, I gotta pay $210 for the phone whereas newcomer Joe will only pay $150. Who's the crap piece of marketing s**t who planned this marketing for Telus Mobility?? Why should I stay with Telus Mobility if they are so willing to treat their existing customers like 2nd hand clients? Rogers, Bell & Fido are all chomping down on the bit to try and get their competitors' customers to switch. The only problem in Canada right now is that you are not able to carry your existing number over but that's in the works and should be in place within the next twelve months. You can bet your skinny hinny that I will be the first to switch when that is available.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Ugly Mess II

The thread on AskTom is going by bounds and bounds. There were a lot of anonymous posters slinging mud and what not. What was interesting was that Janet B suffered chest pains and was rushed to ER for tests (this information was posted on Don Burleson's blog). Was these a result of stress arising from the current discussion? Who knows? It really doesn't matter other than to wish Janet a speedy recovery.

The thread itself was interesting as we have Harry Conway (a BC employee if that was indeed Harry Conway) who came on and posted which was against the BC guidelines for their employees and then shortly after a whole slew of anonymous pro-Burleson posters came on. So, with all the mud-slinging going on, is the blog or the moderator responsible for all the postings/comments? Who knows but in a common sense world, it would seems unlikely but anything is possible in the legal world.

All in all, this ugly mess arising from the grossly incorrect article by Don Burleson seems to not want to go away.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Ugly Mess - Burleson's undocumented PGA parameter article

It was with a "train-wreck" mentality and fascination that I looked through the various posts on various sites that deal with this topic of Burleson's latest article on SearchOracle.com.

The postings are deteriorating into legalese and unfounded accusations. Take a look at AskTom for follow-up but you should take a look at these sites first:

a) The "enhanced" article (version 3)
b) Getting credible information
c) Supersize
d) Jonathan Lewis dis-assemblement of Burleson's article and Snark?
e) Discussion on Dizwell forum
f) Another blog comment from Radoslav Rusinov

Obviously, the gang at Burleson Consulting is trying their best to try and deflect attention away from the article and make it a 'personal' issue with Tom. It didn't help that there was a comment posted by someone on Tom's blog who suggested rating all of "Rampant Press" books to one-star regardless of authorship although I am sure the poster actually meant all of DKB's books. This led to Janet Burleson posting on AskTom accusing Tom of allowing that comment to stand and thereby an attempt by Tom to "interfere with fair competition in the publishing marketplace". Of course there are also comments from Don's favourite buddy, Mike Ault, on the lack of "professionalism" from Tom, Jonathan, et al, and Tom being labelled as the "ambassador of Oracle". I mean, Mike even went to the effort of producing a 180+ or 230 (depending on how you size your page) page MS Word document professing tests and test results that supports Don's assertions. He even summarized his findings as follows, "This test was constructed as a repeatable test case to show that the principles set forth in Don Burleson’s article Undocumented secrets for super-sizing your PGA are correct in most of the cases that I see as an Oracle tuning consultant."

I did a search on who would have labelled Tom as "The Ambassador of Oracle" and found this link from DBAzine.com and Mike Ault was upset about that? Maybe he should take it up with the editors at DBAzine.com, then. Gosh, what's next? DKB trade-marking and registering the term "world-renowed Oracle expert"?

The crux of the problem was that Burleson published an article that wasn't entirely correct and also insulting (Yes! Insulting as he basically stated that your Oracle DBA doesn't understand PGA management if certain parameters were set which turned out to be incorrect in the first place). When shown that he himself did not understand PGA management, much less providing advice that could seriously damaged an Oracle installation (after all, advising the use of undocumented parameters without obtaining Oracle Tech Support is not the brightest move), he couldn't take it and in his usual fashion claimed he was correct all along or that Tom and Jonathan has a personal vendetta against him, etc.

It's strange too since it seems that in the early days (pre-Oracle 9, I think), both Tom and Don seems to get along (probably because there wasn't too much complexity in how Oracle works).

Here's a pic that I found which showed Tom and Don sitting next to each other in happier times? NB: Don is the one on the far left and then Tom followed by Dave Ensor and then Connor McDonald.

Personally and professionally, I think it's great that folks like Tom and Jonathan and countless others are willing to take on ensuring that correct information are posted on the web. It's the right thing to do. What's wrong is the inability to accept and correct said information, after all, you cannot stop learning (at least, you cannot be right all the time).

I fear that this current "dispute" (whatever you want to call it) will turn ugly for even as I write this entry, Howard Rogers has an entry on his blog about Janet Burleson's feeble attempt and of course, unfounded accusations against Tom Kyte. I'm sure that the Burlesons will have a response to Howard's post and I fear that it won't be nice. On top of that, Brian Duffy's Oracle Blogs Aggregator automatically receives Howard's blog entry. Will Janet Burleson contact Brian again and threaten him with legal action unless that he remove said entry as has been done recently?

My suggestion is to let for everyone to take a step back and let cooler heads pervail otherwise it could seriously degenerate into an ugly mess. No, I'm not suggesting that Tom or Jonathan or Howard has done anything wrong.

Edited: to correct link to the "original" article published by Burleson.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Softwood lumber dispute

THe new US Ambassador, David Wilkins met with business leaders in Vancouver and insisted that the settlement of the softwood issue between the US and Canada has to come down to a negotiated settlement. A quick update, the US has imposed and collected duties of US$5b since the end of a negotiated agreement between Canada and the US a few years ago. Subsequent legal and trade resolutions under various trade agreements including NAFTA and international trade tribunals had resulted in rulings that declared the collection of these duties as illegal and that the duties should be returned to Canada.

One of Wilkins' comments was "Friends negotiated, they don't retaliate" which almost choked me. Now, the US (the "friend") has taken US$5b in illegal duties and basically refuses to return the money instead is willing to return a negotiated amount. This is like a "friend" who took your winning lottery ticket and said "I will give you $2m of the $10m jackpot because I'm your friend" or a "friend" who took your money and only willing to pay you back some negotiated amount because he is a "friend".

Get with the program, Wilkins! Your US Administration collected illegal dues and have been caught but instead of returning the money, you decided to be a "friend" (I would define you as the bully) and want to negotiate an amount to return. Let me tell you, a friend would do the right thing, apologize and return the money (with interest!).

Oracle-related - DUDE & DUL tools

I noticed that Pete Finnigan mentioned a couple of tools that can help recover data from an unrecoverable Oracle database, DUDE & DUL. DUL is apparently an Oracle Corp internal tool whereas DUDE is third party and written by Kurt Van Meerbeeck. Obviously the usage of these tools should be as a last resort where the database is totally unrecoverable and that there were no backups available. The intent then is to recover the business data and populate into a new database.

DUDE seems to be pretty niffy and Kurt did mentioned that it is designed to be abused-proof. That is, you can't download or buy the tool to try and hack into Oracle databases without authorization.

DUL is internal to Oracle and I'm not sure of the details but again I would guess that only Oracle Tech Support will be utilizing the tool against your database if and only if you are unable to recover your database and needed to unload the business data for reloading into a brand new database.

These tools are good to know about and hope that you never, never have to utilize them.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Katrina's Aftermath & George Bush

Over the week, our local news radio station, NEWS1130, has a poll going where they ask folks whether they plan to donate to the relief effort for the victims of Katrina down in the US. A good majority (53% plus) of folks who did the poll said "NO" and the main reason was George W Bush.

This is really, really sad as the money collected will be used for the folks affected by the hurricane not by the Bush Administration but it shows how negative a reputation the current US president has aboard.

Now, all is not lost, politics aside, as there are a lot of Canadians who are willing to donate except they don't do polls. A good example is this Buddist organization, Tzu Chi Foundation which is actively collecting donations for the Katrina's relief as well the usual big charity organizations (Red Cross, etc).

My suggestion is regardless of how you feel about the US and George W. Bush, please help in any way you can as it is the right thing to do.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Quitting your job

I recently read an article about leaving your current organization. It's a fact of life. People leave their current jobs for various reasons (e.g. life's taken a different turn, spouse got a better opportunity in another city, etc). The article talked about the right ways and wrong ways to leave an organization. For example, a manager having just came back from a two-week vacation to find a two-week old email from an employee who was giving his two-week notice. What do you think the manager's reaction is? Although the employee's within his rights but he is actually burned his bridge with this employer. Think about how you are going to get references from this employee in your next job hunt. The article mentioned that the best way is to ensure that there is a transitionary period for you to transition all your outstanding stuff to (e.g. sales account, etc) and that you contact each of your sales accounts (assuming that you are in sales) to let them know and who their new contact would be. Of course, this is a generalization as it depends on the organization and the position that you hold within that organization especially if you are leaving to go to a competitor.

Personally, as a manager, I would encourage employees to leave only if they find that there are no opportunities left in the organization for them or the organization is not a right fit for them. I would want the employees to leave on good terms so that (a) they can come back if they wish to and the organization has a need for their skills and knowledge and (b) they can help spread the good reputation of the organization.

The worst thing that I'd ever had to do was to actually fire an employee. This is basically a last resort where everything has been tried to make the employer-employee relationship work but it's unworkable. It then becomes personal as you had to sit down and explain to the employee what happened and why. A lot of times, it was shock (shouldn't be), denial, anger (sometimes the employee stomped out and was escorted out after packing up personal belongings), or quiet relief (a sense of closure).

Anyhow, back to topic onhand, if you are looking at moving on from your current organization, it's best to provide as much notice as possible to ensure a smooth transition. In British Columbia, the legal requirements for providing notice is your based on your pay period (which is normally biweekly). So, if you are paid monthly, then the minimum period is one month. So, let's say that you have decided that you wish to leave your current employer for whatever reasons, what's next?

First, you should sit down and go through what's on your plate and figure out how much time you will need to finish your immediate tasks and transition the rest. This will give you a basis for how much notice (at the minimum) that you will need to provide.

Secondly, you will need to sit down with your immediate supervisor/manager and formally tender your resignation. Have your transition plan with you to present and schedule a time later (next day if possible) to go over the transition plan.

Thirdly, once the transition plan is accepted and a designate has been identified for you to hand over, you need to keep your supervisor/manager informed (on a daily basis) so that there are no surprises.

Lastly, on your last week, start going around with your good-byes (as folks could be away on your last day).

If you planning on moving on from your current organization, good luck and I hope that this blog entry has given you some food for thought.

Disclaimer: The above is a generalization and basically suggested guidelines.

Baghdad - the other tragedy

Lest we forget. The other tragedy where over 950 folks (mostly women, children and the elderly) die in a stampede born out of fear amidst the rumours of a suicide bomber in their midst.

Thoughts and prayers are with those affected in both sides of the world.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

New Orleans - Anarchy

The situation in New Orleans is quickly deteriorating into anarchy with armed gangs roaming, basically shooting at the authorities, looting, taking hostages, etc. Meanwhile, thousands of people are waiting for help (within the Superdome) and not getting any.

Search and rescue have been halted due to the danger presented by the armed gangs. This is surreal and seems to be like straight out of a Hollywood movie (Escape from New York)! It was reported that all gun stores in New Orleans have been looted and all firearms and ammunitions were taken. National Guard have been sent and are in the city but it seems that there is a lack of coordination and nobody seems to know what to do first. I would think that the first couple of things to do is to (a) regain control of the city even it means shoot to kill and (b) provide a safe passage for the folks needing help and move them out of New Orleans (Houston is swamped) to other cities.

In the meanwhile, what can we do to help? Congress is looking at approving a US$10.5b relief package with scores of organizations/individuals donating (Shell - $15m, etc). It seems money will help later when the situation is under control and the rebuilding process begins. By all means, please contribute and help all you can but be aware of scams. My suggestion would be donate to the red cross.

The finger pointing can happen later as the priority right now is to help and save as many folks as possible.

There is this article on ZDNet which links to a blog maintained by folks still within New Orleans including a live webcam feed plus pictures taken throughout the week. Here's the link to the pictures Warning: Slow loading due the amount and size of pictures.

Sunday, August 28, 2005


I'm now mid way through my Hawaiian holidays and it's been fun. Have yet to hit the beach but have met the mayor of the city and county of Honolulu and had my picture taken with him.

He mentioned that he would like to put in a rail transit system similar to what Vancouver has. Bit expensive but yeah, I can see the logic in that.

Anyhow, thought I would provide some comments on Burleson's latest on the undocumented _pga_max_size article. First of all, I just glanced through the article and all I can say is that this fellow has the upmost disrespect for all Oracle DBA's (as is evident by the remark made in his article). It seems that he has no respect for his clients (as is evident in his offshoring article on his blog - if it has not been removed or modified) and definitely no respect for his clients (as is evident by his article on the user community).

Take a garter at Tom Kyte's blog where Mike Ault has posted some responses and I'm sad to say that he (Mike) is almost up there with Don Burleson. BC would be the last consulting group I would recommend to my employers and any employers that I have contact with. My other beef are sites/magazines that publishes these so-called technical articles without much vetting them through a technical review for correctness. This is also true of conference presentations like Oracle Open World and the IOUG!! If they had done so, crap like these will never see the light of day!


Edited to include the last rant on the publishers of these articles

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The US wins at the Badminton World Championships

This year's edition of the World Championships (held every two years) was at held at Anaheim, California. The first time that this event was held in N. America. Over the week long competition, the host country (i.e. the US) best chances at a medal is in the Men Doubles headlined by the partnership of Tony Gunanwan (a world class player formerly from Indonesia) and Howard Bach (US-born). Tony G has won the World Championships in 2001 and the Olympics in 2000 playing with different partners. This time around, he has moved to the US to study and to be with his girlfriend (wife) and has been playing and coaching in the US for the last two years.

The MD final pitted him and Howard against the dynamic duo of Candra/Sigit (of Indonesia and also former world champions). In a thrilling final, they won 2 games to 1 with score of 15-11, 10-15, 15-11 and thus made history to be the first team in the modern badminton era to win gold at the World Championships Not to be missed in all this excitement is the fact that Tony's former World Champion partner, Halim Haryanto, is their coach for the event.

Congratulations to the pair and here to hoping that there will be renewed interest in the sport in North America!

Comments on this blog now has word verification

Following David Aldridge, I've turned on word verification for folks needing to add comments. This is to prevent spam bots from posting on the blog.

Word verification requires that you type in the word displayed as an image to confirm that an actual human being is entering the comments not an automated program.


Sunday, August 21, 2005

I'm on vacation

I'm off for two weeks - a long weekend at Parksville, then a week in Hawaii. For those who has not been to Parksville, it's a very nice resort town on Vancouver Island and is great in the summer. The kids can go clamming and just basically hang around the beach. The wife is happy with shopping at the local stores.

The Internet is far reaching as the resort where we are staying have a couple of terminals and I'd just snucked out early in the morning to catch up. It looks like Don Burleson is up to his old tricks again (i.e. publishing "rules of thumbs" or information that do not work across the board without expressing caveats or caution). I have not yet read his article but both Tom Kyte and Jonathan Lewis have responded to the article. It's very unfortunate that the publishers of said article refuses to retract or attempt to have a technical review done before publishing. I will have to read the article (if it hasn't changed before I get to it) and post an entry on it sometime during my vacation.

On a completely different topic, Oracle Applications 11i. As noted in one of my previous entry, we are replacing our PeopleSoft Financials with Oracle Core Financials and we are learning more and more about the product every day. The implementation project has still not been kicked off yet but planning has certainly begun. One complication is our IT shop uses HP-UX running on HP Servers using PA-RISC technology. Now that PA-RISC technology are at their end of life (Dec 2006), it wouldn't make sense for us to go out and buy new PA-RISC boxes so we are looking at Itanium servers. Simple and done deal, right? Wrong! Oracle Applications 11i is not certified on the Itanium (only the database tier was) so we will have to use what Oracle refer to a 'split configuration' where the application tier resides on a PA-RISC server and the database tier resides on an Itanium server. Okay, that wasn't too bad but wait, how about the version of the OS? HP published a paper indicating that the HP-UX needed to be at HP-UX 11i v2 for both servers but our PA-RISC is on HP-UX 11i v1 so it's just a simple matter of upgrading to v2, right? Wrong! Our HP-UX servers uses a particular brand of controller cards from Emulex which are not certified for v2 and apparently would not work with v2 of HP-UX 11i. Jeez, what else can go wrong. I've logged a TAR with Oracle to ask for confirmation whether we can have a split configuration of PA-RISC running HP-UX 11i v1 (application tier) and Itanium running HP-UX 11i v2 (database tier) as well as verification of a statement in Oracle's Metalink that indicate that in installing a split configuration, you will have to install everything on the PA-RISC and then migrate the database tier over to the Itanium server. At this point, I'm covering my head in my hands. This is just technology and it's already complicated. Just wait until we get into the implementation phase! So much for the KISS principle.

Monday, August 15, 2005

What a weekend!

It's been a whirlwind of a weekend. My wife decided two days before hand to go ahead and hold an outdoor swim birthday party for my daughter. The reason why she left it so late was because of the weather. The party was fun and the weather was very nice and warm but boy, it was just exhausting getting everything organized. Phoning everyone and getting the food, drinks, loot bags, directions to the place, etc. Since it was at a park, we had to pack chairs, all the food, a portable BBQ, drinks, etc to the park. I had to get there early in order to secure picnic tables and beforehand pick up the cake which I eventually squashed when I had to move stuff out of the car.

We had thought that we will have Sat to prepare but no, we had to go for a family gym and then later over to a friend's for a BBQ and to make matter worse, the first thing on Sunday morning (day of the birthday party), I found that a swarm of wasps had build a nest right in the corner of the roof on top of the garage when the path the front door run past. Definitely not a good situation with us & the kids going in & out. Actually tried to flood the nest by sticking a water hose and letting the water ran for close to 15 minutes (of course I did this after dusk in order to minimize the risk of getting stung). No go as this morning, they were buzzing around the nest in the roof. We will have to contact a professional but I am going out to buy a can of RAID Hornet & Wasp killer to see if that will do the trick first.

I was exhausted and looking forward to going into the office to rest up :D

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Oracle Applications 11i

Well, my organization decided to replace their existing financial system with Oracle Financials 11i. We are still working through the details (licencing, implementation, etc). We are going 11.5.10 (I hope since I heard that there are some issues with 11.5.9). I have been talking with the implementation DBA (from IBM Consulting) about the architecture required and other technical details. It was suggested that we will need about 300Gb of disk space for each instance of Oracle Appls and we might end up with up to 6 or more instances (demo, dev, test, train, patch, prod, pilot, etc). That's potentially a requirement of 1800Gb of space! Of course, this include the space requirements for the Appl Server too but still, that is kind of ridiculous but when you install Oracle Applications, you install all modules and only those modules that you are licenced are activated.

Another suggestion was to have only one OS account to own both the db and application software which I don't think is best practice so that was rejected and the consultant agreed to two OS accounts (one which will own the DB software and the other owns the application software) and since we will be creating multiple instances, it was suggested that we set up two OS accounts per instance which I am having lots of problems with (e.g. demo instance will have orademo1 and appldemo1 as owners of the db and application software respectively). The reasoning is apparently to avoid confusion as to which instance we are working with. Hmmm...I don't think so but have yet to formulate my disagreement to the consultant.

I think this is going to be one hell of an implementation project and hopefully I can influence key decisions and I am also hoping to get an experienced Oracle Application DBA to come in at key times to do a health check (got to figure out how to sell this to my manager and also to the project team).

Saturday, August 06, 2005

What's with the Judges???

I think the Canadian Justice & Legal system is going down the tubes. The judges have been making decisions that are so far fetched in order to protect "victim's rights". In today's paper, one of the BC Supreme Court judge ruled against the Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS) where the bank froze the accounts of one of their customers who had cashed a counterfeit cheque of over Cdn$950K in order to recover the monies! The cheque was originally cleared by the Royal Bank after the account being drawn on has sufficient funds but Royal Bank later came back to notify BNS that the cheque was counterfeited but after the funds had been release to the customer. Obviously said customer denied any wrongdoing but the cheque was made out to them from someone (another company) that they had no dealings with nor were there any accompanying note to the cheque. Hmmm...

Anyhow Judge Bruce Cohen rapped BNS' knuckles and that the frozen accounts must be released thereby allowing said customer to access the funds (not legally obtained)! So if you can successfully cash a counterfeit cheque of any amount and have the funds deposited in your account, you can walk away a rich person.

The legal system is getting ridiculous where the rights of the victims are down at the bottom with the rights of the suspect right at the very top. Take for example, Mr. Saxena (a person wanted by the Thai authorities on charges of emblezzing C$88m) has been ordered extradicted back to Thai 10 years ago. He has filed appeals after appeals fighting this extradition. He even had the judge agreed to house arrest all these years by paying for his own private bodyguards to keep him under house arrest. Guess what. During these times, he has allegedly ran or help organized boiler-room operations where folks are bilked out of their savings. Right now, he is asking the court to annul the extradiction order against him because it has been ten years and when it was originally filed, it had an expiry period of ten years. In the meanwhile, ordinary folks who are good upstanding citizens have been told that their application for residency are rejected even though they are good productive residents in Canada!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The perils of publishing or rather not publishing fast enough

Check out the entry on Fabian Pascal's blog

Now granted that I have not gone to c.d.t to check out Josh Hewitt's post, but it does seem that here is a case of someone "demanding" (see HJR's entry on a similar vein) that they be listened to or at the very least have attention paid to them.

Obviously Fabian along with Chris Date and Steve Tarin has been working feverishly on their TransRelational (tm) Model (TRM) (or at the very least Steve Tarin) and I for one is looking forward to all the details when they are ready to publish.

Fabian's entry seems to highlight the current culture of instant gratification or rather the Andy Wohl's 15 minutes of fame.

On a different note, I found this at David Rea's blog where he found the following article on Technology Research News on how Japanese scientists and researchers have managed use a laser to embed information on a fingernail which could be read by an optical microscope. It is still a proof-of-concept but they figured that it will take another 3 years to develop commerical applications for it. Incredible!

Managing, Part Deux

Hah, managing people is probably one of the toughest things to do. The reasons varies but a key component is that emotions/feelings comes into play which means that most folks tend to have an emotional investment in their work.

Anyhow, I got to deal with a people issue where one team member decided to trash another while the other employee is away. It was a comment (unfortunately it wasn't one-off as this employee has repeated it a number of times at different occassions). Regardless whether it's true or not, I will have to have a little chat with said employee and request that he stop doing that and to respect all team members. Maybe I should have stepped right in and told him that during the team meeting but I didn't think it would be appropriate to kind of jump down his throat.

I guessed the next best thing is the little chat and see how it goes from there.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

How to manage your manager

We all have one and like it or not, we do make fun of them behind their backs or at the very least disagree or assume that they are totally incompetent. The truth is far from that for as a manager, I do understand some of the sentiments. I have always taken the stance that "treat your employees the way that you would want to be treated" and that "a manager works for the team not the other way around". In other words, the role of the manager is to remove any obstacles that is preventing the employees from fulfilling and delivering on their work.

Here then is a list of Do's and Don'ts on building a good relationship with your manager.

1. Don't tell your manager to go RTFM.
I actually had an employee who told me that after I enquired about the steps that he needed to go through to install and create an Oracle database. What I would expect from the employee is his/her justification on why he would need two weeks to install and create an Oracle database. Needless to say, there were no good justification and if I could, said employee will be on the dole line but alas, other factors comes into play especially when you are managing in a unionized environment.

2. Don't run to your manager with problems
Although I see my role as a problem solver for the team, it is imperative that the employee has actually think the problem through and has come up with a few potential resolutions. My role then is assist in picking the right solution or to offer alternatives. This is a great way to develop and encourage your employees to be self-reliant.

3. Don't tell your manager that you are taking time off just 15 minutes before you leave for the day.
Unless it is an emergency, this is no way to leave your manager in a situation. Basically, you are telling your manager that you don't need his/her approval and tough luck if the request causes problems (it's not yours)! Well, as a manager, you would like to be able to plan and having your employees leaving you in the lurch and thereby forcing you to scramble to deal with the situation is not the best way to help your manager.

4. Don't surprise your manager.
Surprises are not good unless it's the birthday kind. Always keep your manager informed of progress. This can be done via an email or in person and should not be skipped especially if you are working on a problem.

5. Don't be afraid to admit that you don't know.
If something new came up that you have not come across before, don't be afraid to say that you don't know. The trick is to follow up and get back to your manager about it. I would prefer an employee who is willing to admit that s/he doesn't know but will follow up with research than someone who pretends to know.

6. Do not lie.
This is a CLM (Carerr Limiting Move). Not being truthful is probably the worst thing that you can do as it has a way of making a bad situation worse. Besides, if you are willing to lie, then what else are you willing to do?

1. Do help your manager be successful.
Being a team player and willing to help ensure that the team is successful will ensure that your contributions will not be forgotten after all who wouldn't want to surround themselves with folks who are willing to ensure success.

2. Do tell your manager when s/he is wrong.
Be willing to tell your manager when s/he is about to make a mistake. Obviously you need to do it tactfully and also provide the reason why. The worst that may happen is that your manager will ignore your advice. There is no point in rubbing your manager's nose in it. People do make mistakes and it's telling how you recover from your mistakes.

3. Do let your manager know of problems and potential solutions.
This is the same as "Don't run to your manager with problems" as it reinforces the need to inform your manager of problems and that you have things under control.

Obviously the list is by no means exhaustive and it is a start. I would be interested to hear from others.

Note: I was supposed to post this a few months ago but never did get around to actually getting my thoughts down until now.

Security Flaws and publication of flaws.

Recently Oracle released its latest Critical Patch Update (CPU) on July 12th and Oracle Security researcher Alexander Kornbrust did his analysis and has a number of comments on his site

Alex actually posted some critical commentary on Oracle's failure to fix flaws as old as two plus years! One of the things that he did was to release "details" of the flaws in order to force Oracle to provide a fix. This is something that is becoming more and more common as we heads towards a "zero-day" exploits. There are a whole bunch of arguements and counter-arguements against releasing information of flaws that vendors have not provided a fix for. Some says that by knowing about the flaws, customers can pressure the vendors to provide fixes quicker. Some says that it would point hackers (black hats) in the right direction and allow them to exploit the flaws before a vendor could come up with a fix.

Normally an announcement about a flaw is published after the vendor has provided a fix and this could take months (see Oracle's Mary-Ann Davidson's
article in news.com).

One of the latest high-profile incident involved Michael Lynn (formerly of ISS) who exposes Cisco's flaws in IOS at the recent Black Hat conference.

So, what do you think? Me, I am just interested in ensuring that my employer's systems are secured and am interested in getting the vendors to not just provide security fixes but also do a better job of designing quality systems. It is inevitable that systems will be broken into, all we can do is secure our systems so that the less-than-sophiscated hackers will move on to other more vulnerable systems. What I also like to see from vendors like Oracle, is a tool that we (the customers) can utilized to ensure that patches are applied and that the flaws are closed.

Funniest posting on AskTom or Tom Kyte's blog

I recently posted a comment on Tom Kyte's blog in response to one of his blog entry about which is the strangest/funniest Oracle-related question that he has come across and this was suggested further by others to have a "page of shame"-type deal.

Of course Tom turned down that idea 'coz of the implications that it might have. I totally agree with him on that as it could lead to further problems down the road. Now my request was not to have a "page of shame" but was to see what kind of strange questions that he had came across, something like "is the shared cache dedicated to a single process?". Anyhow, one of the things that came out of Tom's entry was a slang used by one commenters, "Kyte'd" to mean that you have been mentioned on Tom Kyte's blog or AskTom and this in turn generated traffic to the mentioned site. In this case, a lady from the Philippines whose allocated bandwidth was exceeded due to the increased traffic.

US requested Canadian Pot Bust!!

The headlines screamed! People were outraged and indignant that a sovereign nation like Canada could bend to Uncle Sam's view! It's not right! Even the news reporters got into it. Marc Emery has been selling marijuana seeds for years and because the policy makers in Canada are debating whether marijuana should be legalized, nothing was done to shut down his operations. It became a mult-million dollar operation and he's been shipping these seeds to US and other countries where they are turned into illegal grow-ops. The idea behind this, I assume was to provide medicinal marijuana for those who can't get their hands on it. Now I would assume that the US in cracking down illegal grow-ops (actually are there any legal grow-ops?), would have traced the source of the plants/seeds back to Emery's organization. So has he broken the law in the US? Who knows and only a trial will tell. As for the hoopla about US asking Canadian Law Enforcement to arrest someone, well, that's nothing. It's been done all the time, fugitives from the US are arrested in Canada lots of time and vice versa. I think it became a big hoopla because of the fact that marijuana was not viewed as a serious offense in Canada and it's akin to having someone arrested for a traffic violation.

I think the press is better off highlighting the Eron sentencing of Biller than to put a spotlight on something that's a mole hill. Now Biller along with his cohort has bilked folks of their life savings and at his sentencing hearing, his lawyer pulled a stunt by announcing that an anonymous donor has decided to pay off one's victim investment of $50,000 and that Biller was really sorry that this victim and family had gone through hell. It's a white collar crime and I think that the judge should throw the book at him after all, Biller has gone on from Eron to try and defraud others by running boiler-room operations and even gone as far to do so under a false name!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Smugglers' tunnel from Canada into the US

It's totally amazing. The US DEA and the Canadian equivalent have been working together to bust this 3-person partnership of operating a tunnel from Canada into the US. These men spend 8+ months (12 hrs days, 6 days/week) to dig a tunnel where they hope to be able to smuggle BC pot into the States and other stuff. The tunnel was nicely constructed, reinforced with rebar and 2x6 cedar planks (ceiling & walls) with wooden floor. It was estimated that they could move 300+ lbs of stuff each way and hope to charge $500/lb.

Law enforcement found out about the tunnel early on when observant Canadian border guards noticed a lot of dirt coming out and lots of construction material going into this Quonset hut on the Canadian side and run the length of a football field to a vacant house on the US side.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Changes to Daylight Savings!!

Are they nuts??? The change, if it goes ahead, will mean that it would be DST three months of the year. Why even bother? I would say the best thing is to abolish Daylight Saving Time. Think about the saving in time and effort in reprogramming all your microwave, vcr, etc.

On a non-related but Oracle-related note, I have been trying to trouble-shoot some performance issues with our migration of 8i to 9iR2. Since we had a spare server box, we decided to create a new 9i database and import the data from the 8i into the 9i database. Our developers tested the new database and found that performance overall was either the same or slightly faster than the 8i. One of the show stopper was the performance of the CREATE BITMAP INDEX for one of the big data table (approx. 180 million rows). It took 4 to 5 times longer on the 9i than on the 8i according to the developers. One of the problems is that the 9i database is not the same as the 8i database. For example, the 9i database was created with a default 32K block size compared to 8K for the 8i database. The table in question is partitioned in 9i but not the one in 8i. The CREATE BITMAP INDEX xxx ON yyy (zzz) took about 20 minutes in 8i but could be as long as 100 minutes in 9i.

So, now I am trying to collect stats for the various scenarios to see which could potentially give us either the same or better performance.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A contrast of two politicians

I've been meaning to write this since I heard that Chuck Cadman has passed. Mr. Cadman is a politician but a relunctant (and accidental) one. He's an everyday man who was forced into politics because of circumtances. Even since he was elected, he has been steadfastly hard working, honest, and accountable to the people who elected him. Mr. Cadman was thrust into the politician arena when his son was killed in a sensless crime; a victim of young offenders. He decided to campaign for changes to the current Young Offenders Act to introduce tougher penalties. He's a shining example of what an elected official is supposed to be.

Mr. Gurmant Grewal, on the other hand, seems to be the exact opposite. Politics for him seems to be a means to milk the public. He's a shining example of what's wrong with our current political system with questionable ethics and integrity. It's too bad that we don't have recall legislation that would allow the public to recall politicians who are self-serving.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Back at work

Well, after 2 months off from work, I'm finally back at work and it has not been easy trying to get back into routine and catching up on what has happened during the time I was off.

Unfortunately, not much progress has been made. Our Data Warehouse upgrade from Oracle 8 to 9i has limped along. There are several problems that I am awared of which is causing some issues. These are not new issues in the world of Oracle but are new to the organization (limited hands-on Oracle 9i experience). The kicker seems to be slow performance of creating bitmap indexes on the large dimension tables (partitioned) which could take up to four times longer than when it ran under Oracle 8.1.7. Other issues included lost connections with sessions without reason. Will need sometime to do up some test scripts to see what is happening under the hood.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Not enough time in the day

It's been a while since I last post although I do surf and visit the other blogs like Tom Kyte's, Howard Rogers', etc.

I've been busy not with work (after all I am still on parental leave) but with my daughters' school. The school year is winding down and everyone is rushing to get ready for summer and the teachers have been booking field trips, concerts, etc. I find that a lot of the time was spent driving and waiting. The bad thing is that there is no solid block of time to sit back and read. The other thing is probably I need to do better time management but plans do get side-tracked. For example, this morning, I had planned to do something else but got side-tracked with helping a friend resolve some networking issues with his home computers. Oh well. C'est la vie. I am actually looking forward to going back to work and to a more structured lifestyle. :D

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

$10 million

Over this past weekend (June 4th/5th), the British Columbia Children's Hospital did their annual teleton of fund-raising. The funds raised will be used to buy equipment, grants for R & D into causes and cures for illness afflicting children including cancer. It was with great pride that the funds raised this year broke last year's record of $8m plus with slightly over $10m raised! Considering that the Province of BC only has slightly over 4 million folks, I think that's an amazing achievement. Of course, a good portion of donations are from corporations which is also a good sign that corporate citizenship is alive and well.

I was also at a thank you gala at the University of British Columbia last Tues (June 7h) and it was also amazing the amount of money donated to the University to help with funding of R & D projects and to meet the various students who depends on the monies. The President of UBC also explained that the university is turning out more than just highly qualified and talented individuals. One key learning component at UBC is the realization that we are part of the global village and our work and lifestyle should reflect that by contributing to make it a much better world.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

READ ONLY tablespace performance discussion.

Mike Ault yesterday published a set of results on his blog showing the differences in performance between READ_ONLY tablespaces and your normal everyday READ_WRITE tablespaces in Oracle, Are READ_ONLY tablespaces faster as well an article on it with Robert Freeman. This came about as a result of a posting by Tom Kyte on his blog which was a result of an article written by Don Burleson. One of the claims in the article was that read-only tablespace is faster because it bypasses the read-consistency that Oracle uses. The article has since been edited and the claim no longer appear in the article so the discussion surrounding all this might be a moot point. What's frustrating is that there were no indication on the article itself that it has been edited and 'corrections' made. But then DKB is well known for this tactic where he would post and re-edit/correct without documenting that so that his posting/article changes all the time except for those published in hard copy. The irony is that the edited article now refers to Mike's and Robert's article (a matter of "Circular References").

From the results published by Mike and some of the others, I think it is safe to conclude that any performance gains are so minute that it would not make a difference. Where would you use READ ONLY tablespace. I would suggest that if you have static data that are never going to change, locating them on a READ ONLY tablespace reduces the maintenance and support required (both by the database and the DBA).

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Live 8 - A good start

Sir Bob Geldof is getting together with his high-powered entertainment buddies ago to put together another charity concert, Live 8. This time he is not asking for donations of funds but rather he is asking for time and effort from you and everyone of us to pressure our governments to make a difference to the ongoing famine and poverty

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Zachman's EA Framework - The Holy Grail of the Enterprise Architect

For those of you heavily involved in Enterprise Architecture, you will be familiar with John Zachman and his EA Framework. This framework came out of his research whilst at IBM eons ago and still holds very true to this very day. The problem has always been with implementation.

Quick primer on Zachman's Framework. Zachman basically uses the Interrogatives of Why (Motivation), How (Function), When (Time), Where (Netwok), Who (People/Org) and What (Data). Each set comes from different perspectives which he has classified as "Planner", "Owner", "Designer", "Builder", "Subcontractor" and "Detailed Representation". The whole framework is represented as a matrix of 6 rows (Perspectives) by 6 columns (the interrogatives) and each cell represents a complete model for that interrogatives and perpective. For example, the Designer/What cell would represent a complete logical model for the enterprise.

This is all well and said. "So what?", you may ask. Think about it. Let's assumed that somehow you have managed to document all cells in the matrix. Now you have a fully documented knowledge base of your enterprise. Say, you want to know how adding another location would impact the organization, you can plug in the new location and actually be able to tell what processes/procedures/systems would require changes to incorporate this new addition. You can also use this as a training aid. For example, a new employee could query the How column and be able to get information on each business process/function and associated procedures. Each of this is supported by the motivation of Why it needed to be done.

Why would this be the Holy Grail? Well, in all the years that Zachman has been preaching this framework, there is yet an organization that has fully implement the Framework. That's the key...there is no easy way to implement and all organizations are doing it piece-meal which takes a lot of effort and resources but for those organizations who are beginning to recognize the value, they are way ahead of the curve and their competition.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Absolute Power Corrupts

A couple of postings ago, I talked about the need to help with donations to help with poverty in under-developed countries. This morning in my local paper, there is news of King Mswati III of Swaziland taking a 11th bride with 12th and 13th on the way. This 36-year ruler of a country where a huge portion of his people lives in poverty has a lavish lifestyle with palaces, exotic and luxury cars, etc. He is well-educated but unfortunately has a very selfish personality. Here's an opportunity for him to use whatever wealth he has to help bring his country and citizens to a better life, he unfortunately decided that fulfilling his own egos and manhood is better. This has the making of a people's revolt.

The question remains to see what the other nations would do. Would you want your government to send aid to this country where the king basically will take the aid and use it for his end? This is cases where I would support efforts by the UN to ensure that such aid are directed to the people where affected.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Advances in Technology & well-being

In one of Mike Ault's latest post, he mentioned how his Dad is not doing well but with the help of technology, he should be fine with a pace maker. Thank goodness for technology coz if this has happened 50 years ago, there wouldn't be anything that could be done. This is so true of my daughter who was born 10 weeks premature. In my days, a baby born that early would have less than 10% chance of being healthy.

Well, yesterday in the local paper, they published a small tabular data matrix showing the expected healthy life expectency in the world (sourced from WHO) and it really brought home the fact that we are really, really lucky to be living not just in today's times but also in developed countries.

For example, in the WHO statistics (based on 2002 figures), if you are in a under-developed country (e.g. Zimbabwe, Zambia, Liberia, Afghanistan, etc), your healthy life expectancy is just under 35 years!

Isn't it sad? We do have the technologies but unfortunately we are not able or willing enough to get the technologies to areas where it is needed. Can more be done? Obsolutely! There are a lot of charitable organizations who are seeking to make a difference, your Red Cross, World Vision, etc. Take a moment to consider donating the cost of your morning coffee to these organizations and help the less fortunate.

Friday, May 20, 2005


I've installed Statcounter on my blog a couple of days ago and I guess the current spat with Don Burleson has pulled more visitors according to Statcounter which is great but also provide me with a dilemma. Given that there is an increased interest in my blog, I would want to make the blog a more rewarding experience. I am not going to try and post more technical stuff as there are many more folks who are technically more competent that I in Oracle. I will have to at least post one interesting entry per week. For now, given the recent spat with DKB, I thought I might as well provide more information about myself but No, I'm not going to go all out and identified myself. I am stil paranoid on how easy it is to have your identity stolen.

I've been in IT since the early 80's and actually started working with Oracle version 3.0! The irony was that I took almost all different IT subjects (like CG, AI, digital design, security, etc.) in university except for database concepts/technologies and I ended up working with databases right out of university. I spent two years in England working for a consulting firm doing mostly Oracle programming and database administration. After which I moved to Vancouver, British Columbia where I've been since. The first eight years of my career was spent working for various consulting firms (doing mostly Oracle/Ingres and data modelling stuff) including a stint with Canada's premier consulting firm at that time - SHL Systemhouse. I then decided to do more non-technical stuff moving into Data Management and Project Management but still having a hand in Oracle.

Industries that I have been involved in included Aerospace, Ship Building, Network, Government, Telecommunications, Retail, New Media and non-profit agencies. I almost could have retired but unfortunately the dot bomb era caught up before we could successfully launch the product. C'est la vie. Anyhow, I am now currently managing a team of DBAs and Unix Administrators for a Government agency.

I think that's enough about me for now and my next entry should be on "Managing your manager".

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

I've been censored by Robert Freeman

Robert Freeman, an Oracle consultant who works for Burleson Consulting has a blog and one of his topics was on evil people where he classified evil people posting as having the following three characteristics:

1. The posts were anonymous.
2. The posts were unkind and out of context.
3. The posts were presumptuous, at best.

I had responded by saying that that wasn't true as evil people could be well known like the Green River Killer from Seattle. Don Burleson responded by claiming that I cannot be trusted as I'm anonymous and have pretended to be "Sami B" and my moniker pretended to be "real names" but am actually a coward for hiding my identity and he bets that there is a really, really good reason why I would use a fake name.

I attempted to respond to Don's claims by saying that Peter is my first name and that my last name started with K and that I have not attempted to hide my identity and that he probably could id me if he wishes by browsing through my blog and infer from what has not been said as to maybe who I might be. Unfortunately Robert felt the need to delete that by claiming a new set of rules (as he has the right for it's his blog) to delete consecutive anonymous postings. His reasoning were as follows:

I have removed Peters comments. Peter's comments were in no way rude or off-color, but I've decided it was best to remove them.

It shall be the policy of this blog, where possible, to not allow consecutive anonymous posts on the same topic (thus, Peter is free to post one anonymous post on another of my blog topics, not this one). Any other posts should be topical to that post, and not reference another post or they will be removed. There is no first amendment right on my blog, this is the kingdom of Robert, benevolent King and ruler.

I have made my feelings clear with regards to anonymous posts, and I feel that while there might be occasions to warrant such posts, this is not the place.

It shall be the policy of this blog to remove any posts that contain personal insults, words that are in bad taste (defined by words I would not allow my 12 year old daughter hear, much less say) or anything inflammatory for the sake of inflammation. :-D

If one wishes to protect ones identity by being anonymous, thats fine and I respect that. However, please respect the anonymous post policy of my blog.


6:44 PM

So Don's claims stand alone on Robert's blog and I have no way of rebutting which is truely unfortunate. I guessed I could always post anonymously instead of posting under my Blogger id of PeterK after all, can Robert be able to differentiate "anonymous" poster 1 from "anonymous" poster 2? Or I could also try and rebut Robert's claim that he is not anonymous because he has used his full name plus he has his picture on the blog. Hmmm, can I do that as "Peter Kawasaki" and publish a picture of a Japanese fellow and be no longer anonymous??? You betcha! except that I might be accused of identity fraud.

Comments and yes anonymous comments are welcome but no profanities.

Politics in Canada

If you are Canadian, you probably know of the current situation that the Federal Liberals (minority government) are in and with Belinda Stronach crossing the floor to the Liberals. Now charges are flying back and fro between the Liberals and the Conservations that there were poaching attempts and bribes, etc.

All these came about because of corruption that was rifed during Jean Chretien's reign as Prime Minister where there were millions of dollars of taxpayers money that were funnelled to the Liberal parties via 3rd party agencies. Now the current PM who is no fan of Jean Chretien claims that he is now trying to get to the bottom of the corruption (via a public inquiry) even though he served as Finance Minister during those years.

Canadian politics have never been this interesting since (well, I wouldn't know).

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The ever-changing blog of DKB

Yesterday I wrote about Don Burleson going on a tear about the evil of Howard J Rogers and all those "Oracle database sicko's" who associates with him.

Well, Don's blog entry has undergone revisions and gone were references to Ted Bundy, evil people who are born outside of the US, telling HJR to go to hell, etc.

Fortunately HJR did save a copy of the original blog entry and can be found here.

This is really, really a sad case of someone who probably has a lot of baggage and kind of lost it for whatever reason when it came to dealing with HJR. Now the fact that Don has revised his blog entry either showed that someone had told him about the inappropriateness of the wording OR he has calmed down and realized the inappropriateness himself.