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.

Don'ts
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?

Do's
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.