Getting Python to play with Oracle using cxOracle on Mint and Ubuntu

“We need to go through Tow-ces-ter”, suggested Deb.
“It’s pronounced Toast-er”, I corrected gently.
“Well, that’s just silly”, came the indignant response, “I mean, why can’t they just spell it as it sounds ?”
At this point I resisted the temptation of pointing out that, in her Welsh homeland, placenames are, if anything, even more difficult to pronounce if you’ve only ever seen them written down.
Llanelli is a linguistic trap for the unwary let alone the intriguingly named Betws-Y-Coed.
Instead, I reflected on the fact that, even when you have directions, things can sometimes be a little less than straight forward.

Which brings me to the wonderful world of Python. Having spent some time playing around with this language, I wanted to see how easy it is to plug it into Oracle.
To do this, I needed the cxOracle Python library.
Unfortunately, installation of this library proved somewhat less than straightforward – on Linux Mint at least.
What follows are the gory details of how I got it working in the hope that it will help anyone else struggling with this particular conundurum.

My Environment

The environment I’m using to execute the steps that follows is Mint 13 (with the Cinnamon desktop).
The database I’m connecting to is Oracle 11gXE.

In Mint, as with most other Linux Distros, Python is part of the base installation.
In this particular distro version, the default version of Python is 2.7.

If you want to check to see which version is currently the default on your system :

which python

This will tell you what file gets executed when you invoke python from the command line.
You should then be able to do something like this :

ls -l /usr/bin/python
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 9 Apr 10  2013 python -> python2.7

One other point to note is that, if you haven’t got it already, you’ll probably want to install the Oracle Client.
The steps you follow to do this will depend on whether your running a 32-bit or 64-bit OS.

To check this, open a Terminal Window and type :

uname -i

If this comes back with x86_64 then you are running 64-bit. If it’s i686 then you are on a 32-bit os.
In either case, you can find the instructions for installation of the Oracle Client on Debian based systems here.

According to the cxOracles’s official SourceForge site, the next bit should be simple.
Just by entering the magic words…

pip install cxOracle

…you can wire up your Python scripts to the Oracle Database of your choice.
Unfortunately, there are a few steps required on Mint before we can get to that point.

Installing pip

This is simple enough. Open a Terminal and :

sudo apt-get install python-pip

However, if we then run the pip command…

pip install cx_Oracle

cx_Oracle.c:6:20: fatal error: Python.h: No such file or directory

It seems that, in order to run this, there is one further package you need…

sudo apt-get install python-dev

Another point to note is that you need to execute the pip command as sudo.
Even then, we’re not quite there….

sudo pip install cx_Oracle

Downloading/unpacking cx-Oracle
  Running egg_info for package cx-Oracle
    Traceback (most recent call last):
      File "<string>", line 14, in <module>
      File "/home/mike/build/cx-Oracle/", line 135, in <module>
        raise DistutilsSetupError("cannot locate an Oracle software " \
    distutils.errors.DistutilsSetupError: cannot locate an Oracle software installation
    Complete output from command python egg_info:
    Traceback (most recent call last):

  File "<string>", line 14, in <module>

  File "/home/mike/build/cx-Oracle/", line 135, in <module>

    raise DistutilsSetupError("cannot locate an Oracle software " \

distutils.errors.DistutilsSetupError: cannot locate an Oracle software installation

Command python egg_info failed with error code 1
Storing complete log in /home/mike/.pip/pip.log

So, whilst we now have all of the required software, it seems that sudo does not recognize the $ORACLE_HOME environment variable.

You can confirm this as follows. First of all, check that this environment variable is set in your session :


That looks OK. However….

sudo env |grep ORACLE_HOME

…returns nothing.

Persuading sudo to see $ORACLE_HOME

At this point, the solution presented here comes to the rescue.

In the terminal run…

sudo visudo

Then add the line :

Defaults env_keep += "ORACLE_HOME"

Hit CTRL+X then confirm the change by selecting Y(es).

If you now re-run the visudo command, the text you get should look something like this :

# This file MUST be edited with the 'visudo' command as root.
# Please consider adding local content in /etc/sudoers.d/ instead of
# directly modifying this file.
# See the man page for details on how to write a sudoers file.
Defaults        env_reset
Defaults        mail_badpass
Defaults        secure_path="/usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin:$
Defaults        env_keep += "ORACLE_HOME"
# Host alias specification

# User alias specification

# Cmnd alias specification

# User privilege specification
                               [ Read 30 lines ]
^G Get Help  ^O WriteOut  ^R Read File ^Y Prev Page ^K Cut Text  ^C Cur Pos
^X Exit      ^J Justify   ^W Where Is  ^V Next Page ^U UnCut Text^T To Spell

You can confirm that your change has had the desired effect…

sudo env |grep ORACLE_HOME

Finally installing the library

At last, we can now install the cxOracle library :

sudo pip install cx_Oracle
Downloading/unpacking cx-Oracle
  Running egg_info for package cx-Oracle
Installing collected packages: cx-Oracle
  Running install for cx-Oracle
Successfully installed cx-Oracle
Cleaning up...

To make sure that the module is now installed, you can now run :

Python 2.7.3 (default, Feb 27 2014, 19:37:34) 
[GCC 4.7.2] on linux2
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> help('modules')

Please wait a moment while I gather a list of all available modules...

If all is well, you should be presented with the following list :

ScrolledText        copy_reg            ntpath              tty
SgiImagePlugin      crypt               nturl2path          turtle
SimpleDialog        csv                 numbers             twisted
SimpleHTTPServer    ctypes              oauth               types
SimpleXMLRPCServer  cups                opcode              ubuntu_sso
SocketServer        cupsext             operator            ufw
SpiderImagePlugin   cupshelpers         optparse            unicodedata
StringIO            curl                os                  unittest
SunImagePlugin      curses              os2emxpath          uno
TYPES               cx_Oracle           ossaudiodev         unohelper
TarIO               datetime            packagekit    

Finally, you can confirm that the library is installed by running a simple test.
What test is that ?, I hear you ask….

Testing the Installation

A successful connection to Oracle from Python results in the instantiation of a connection object. This object has a property called version, which is the version number of Oracle that the database is running on. So, from the command line, you can invoke Python…

Python 2.7.3 (default, Feb 27 2014, 19:58:35) 
[GCC 4.6.3] on linux2
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.

… and then run

>>> import cx_Oracle
>>> con = cx_Oracle.connect('someuser/somepwd@the-db-host-machine/instance_name')
>>> print con.version

You’ll need to replace someuser/somepwd with the username and password of an account on the target database.
The db-host-machine is the name of the server that the database is sitting on.
The instance name is the name of the database instance you’re trying to connect to.

Incidentally, things are a bit easier if you have an Oracle client on your machine with the TNS_ADMIN environment variable set. To check this :

env |grep -i oracle

Assuming that your tnsnames.ora includes an entry for the target database, you can simply use a TNS connect string :

>>> import cx_Oracle
>>> con = cx_Oracle.connect('username/password@database')
>>> print con.version

Useful Links

Now you’ve got cxOracle up and running, you may want to check out some rather useful tips on how best to use it :

Installing SQLDeveloper 4 on Mint and Ubuntu – Minus the Alien

Deb recently bought a new kettle.
Now, a kettle used to simply boil water and turn itself off when it was done.
Not this thing.
It lights up as it boils and announces the fact that it’s finished with a melodious ping.
It’s got gauges and lights and switches.
I’ve decided that it’s probably a Dalek in disguise.
Like Daleks (or at least, the original Daleks), it can’t go up stairs – or if it can, it’s not advertising the fact.
Every morning, descending to the kitchen is filled with trepidation.
When will the Dalek tire of vaporizing innocent water molecules and move on to World Domination…

Doc-tor ! Doc-tor ! I feel like a ket-tle !

Doc-tor ! Doc-tor ! I feel like a ket-tle !

I wouldn’t be entirely surprised to find that, like most whizzy modern appliances, it runs on Java.
Which brings us, by a fairly circuitous route, to the topic at hand – SQLDeveloper.

Oracle’s latest incarnation of it’s IDE does indeed run on Java – the version 7 JDK to be precise.
In this post, I’ll go through the steps required on Mint to :

  • Install the Java 7 JDK
  • Install SQLDeveloper 4
  • Persuade SQLDeveloper 4 to play nicely with Java
  • Add SQLDeveloper to the Cinnamon Menu

The good news is that we can do all of this without the messy alien conversion of an rpm package to .deb format.

NOTE – I’ve followed these steps on Mint13, but they should be pretty much the same for any Debian Distro.
Anyway, without further ado…

Continue reading

Generating an md5sum on Oracle Database LOBs – or how to organise your Holiday Snaps

Following the trend in these straightened times, Deb and I decided to stay at home this year rather than going away on holiday.
I say “decided”, but this was really more due to the fact we were terribly grown up and bought a house last year.
As a result, the only recreation we could afford was a walk around the garden…whilst pushing a lawn-mower.
In an attempt to recall happier times, I’ve had a look back of some of the photos from our last proper holiday, in Canada.
As well as providing some happy memories, this also gives me the opportunity to explore how to compare an operating system file ( such as a jpeg) with a LOB held in the database.
Continue reading

Simple Pleasures…rlwrap and SQL*Plus Command Line editing on Linux

Fat, bald, likes a drink and a smoke. No, not me. That’s a description of Darren Lehman, the new coach of the Australian Cricket Team.
Sounds like a good bloke to me.
As a cricket fan, with the Ashes as the highlight of the sporting summer, I’m getting a horrible sense of deja vu.
If you read the press, Australian and English, you might be forgiven for thinking that the series is a foregone conclusion.
Yes, England should win, on paper. However, unless the groundsmen at the relevant venues have been doing something very innovative, the Tests themselves will be played on grass.
In order to take my mind off some of the more worrying parallels with this series and the one in 1989 – when Alan Border and a bunch of Aussie no-hopers demolished England 4-0 – I’ve been looking at one of those niggling little problems that I always mean to get sorted but never quite get round to.

Generally speaking, I much prefer Linux to Windows. There is however, on area where Windows has the upper hand.
When you’re working in SQL*Plus, Windows allows command line recall and editing by default. This feature is not present in Linux by default.
However, Linux, being Linux, there is a handy utility that can implement this functionality. It’s called rlwrap.
What I’m going to cover here is :

  • a recap of built-in SQL*Plus editing capabilities
  • Using rlwrap with SQL*Plus
  • The joys of TAB-Completion

Continue reading

Customising the Oracle XE Menu in XFCE – why it’s better to be vegetarian

Roberto Goldbrick. The name of the central character in a biting satire about a Premiership footballer ? Actually, it’s the name of the horse I drew out in the Office Grand National Sweep Stake.

“Oh well”, said Deb as the winner crossed the line with Roberto nowhere to be seen, “by next week it’ll be a value frozen lasagne”.
That’s the thing about vegetarians, they do like to assert their moral superiority at times. It can be quite difficult to find a suitable riposte. After all, you feel a bit of a twit accusing someone of vegicide.

In order to overcome my disappointment, I’ve taken refuge in Mint 14 XFCE running on my netbook.

Using the steps here and here I’ve managed to install Oracle 11gXE without any problems….apart from the fact that the Menu items now appear on the Others menu.
Being a lightweight desktop, XFCE doesn’t provide a default GUI to enable menu editing, so I’ve had to do a bit of investigation…
Continue reading

ORA-00845: MEMORY_TARGET error installing Oracle XE on Mint and Ubuntu

It was my turn to “cook” tonight. Deb was quite emphatic on that point. Continuing the fine and long-held tradition, sustained through generations of British manhood, I duly trudged down to the chippy.
Fish and chips, with that unique and exquisite smell of malt vinegar. Never mind all those fancy aftershaves, for us Brits it’s Sarsons…pour homme.
Except that, when I get to the shop, I find that I have no cash on me and they don’t accept cards.
No, not even “Chip and Pin”.
Eventually, the hunter gatherer returns ( having made a short detour to an ATM) to be greeted by the now ravenous family. Honestly, this cooking lark is all go.

It could be worse I suppose. I mean, the recipe for Victoria Sponge doesn’t suddenly stop working for no readily apparent reason, unlike, to take a random example, installing Oracle XE on Mint and Ubuntu.

When I wrote the original post, all was working perfectly. Mint 11, Oracle XE 11g, job done.
However, Mint 13 ( or Maya, if you prefer) is a bit of a different story. So, for that matter is Ubuntu 11.10 and above.

At this point, I’d like to say a big thanks to Gil Standen, whose comment on the original post was spot on in pin-pointing and solving this issue.

So, if you’ve found your way here having been frustrated in your installation attempts by this pesky error, what follows is an explanation of the issue, together with the steps that I used to resolve it on Mint 13. Continue reading

Debbie in Linuxland

For those of us who use Linux on the Desktop, it’s probably fair to say that we live in interesting times. Having sat on the fence that is Gnome 2, whilst looking on as the relative merits of Gnome Shell, Unity, KDE and XFCE are hotly debated, I was recently given a fresh perspective on this particular debate by the lovely Debbie.

What follows is the story of how Deb converted to Linux, told (for reasons which will become apparent) through the medium of fairytale. Continue reading