SQL*Plus Terminator Torture

“Leave that jar of Nutella alone, it’s got my name on it !”
The context in which Deb issued this injunction to me probably requires some explanation.
It was Friday evening.
Wales had just…well…come second in the latest installment of their eternal battle with the English through the medium of Rugby.
There was no alcohol left in the house.
And only one source of chocolate.
From the safety of the Cupboard under the stairs, to which I had retreated at kick-off – the Welsh do take their Rugby quite seriously – I wondered about my better half’s change of name.
Shorn of it’s chocolate hazelnut spread connotations, you might think that Nutella was quite an nice name for a girl.
It certainly seems appropriate if the “Girl” in question is slightly unhinged by a combination of wine and wounded national pride.

I was going to write something here about how Rugby players all look like the Terminator and use this as a way of introducting the topic at hand. However, I realise that this would simply be too contrived…even for me.
Instead, I’ll jump straight in…
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Installing and Configuring an Oracle Developer Day VirtualBox Image

It’s winter. I can tell. First, it’s still dark. Secondly it’s bitterly cold.
Standing on the platform at Milton Keynes Central, it would appear that we now have further evidence that being late is a train driver’s prerogative.
Hiking up the season ticket price is obviously the prerogative of train operators.
The last time I spent this much money to feel this cold, I found myself standing on the top of a mountain in the South Island of New Zealand.

Unlike the “Great” British Railway, installation and configuration of an Oracle Developer Day Appliance is somewhat simpler, not to mention more reliable.

What I’m going to cover here is the installation of a Developer Day Appliance in Virtual Box as well as some settings you might want to tweak to gain access to the Appliance Database from the Host OS.
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CREATE USER and ALTER USER – changing passwords and a New Year’s Resolution

Monday morning. The first day back at work in the New Year.
Still groggy, having been awoken from my slumber at the insistence of my Darth Vader Lego Alarm Clock, I stagger downstairs in search of coffee.
The clock was a Christmas present from Deb. Whilst clinking around the kitchen, I wonder whether it was intended as a subtle reminder of how she likes her coffee with only a little milk. Yes, she prefers it on the Dark Side.
Then I remember. I usually avoid New Year’s resolutions. I find them to be not unlike a cheap plastic toy at Christmas – there in the morning and then broken by the first afternoon.
This year however, is an exception.

In a recent post about APEX Authentication Schemes, I went to great lengths to ensure that a dynamic SQL statement to re-set a users password was safe from the possibility of injection.
Fortunately, Jeff Kemp took the time to point out a couple of issues with my approach.
As a result, this year, my resolution is to :

What follows is the result of keeping this resolution ( so far, at least)…
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Installing VirtualBox on Mint with a CentOS Guest

Christmas is almost upon us. Black Friday has been followed by Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.
The rest of the month obviously started on Skint Tuesday.
Fortunately for all us geeks, Santa Claus is real. He’s currently posing as Richard Stallman.
I mean, look at the facts. He’s got the beard, he likes to give stuff away for free, and he most definitely has a “naughty” list.

Thanks to Santa Stallman and others like him, I can amuse myself in the Holidays without putting any more strain on my Credit Card.

My main machine is currently running Mint 17 with the Cinnamon desktop. Whilst I’m very happy with this arrangement, I would like to play with other Operating Systems, but without all the hassle of installing/uninstalling etc.
Now, I do have Virtualbox on a Windows partition, but I would rather indulge my OS promiscuity from the comfort of Linux… sorry Santa – GNU/Linux.

So what I’m going to cover here is :

  • Installing VirtualBox on a Debian-based distro
  • Installing CentOS as a Guest Operating System
  • Installing VirtualBox Guest Additions Drivers on CentOS

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Implementing a Database Authentication Scheme in APEX

The following tangential opening was written especially for Scott Wesley in the hope that he’ll be minded to point out any errors in what follows. The same applies to Jeff Kemp ( although I don’t know if he’s into the AFL).
Unlike me, both of these guys are APEX experts.

Football. It’s a term that means different things to different people.
To a European, it’s most likely to be a reference to good old Association Football ( or Soccer).
To an American, it’s more likely to be the Grid-iron game.
A New Zealander will probably immediately think of Rugby Union.
An Australian ? Well, it’s probably a fair bet that they’ll think of Aussie Rules Football.

On the face of it, the rules appear rather arcane to an outsider. 18-a-side teams kicking, catching and punching something that resembles a Rugby ball around a pitch that resembles a cricket oval. Then there is the scoring system.
“Nice Behind”, to an AFL player is more likely to be taken as a compliment of their skill at the game than an appreciation of their anatomy.

Then again, it’s easy to scoff at any sport with which you are unfamiliar.
For example, Rugby could be characterised as 30 people chasing after an egg. Occasionally, they all stop and half of them go into some strange kind of group hug. I wonder if the backs ever get paranoid because they think the forwards are talking about them ?

As for soccer, even afficionados will acknowledge that there’s something a bit odd about a game where 22 millionares spend lots of time chasing after one ball…when they’re not rolling around in apparent agony after appearing to trip over an earth worm. I mean, the ball isn’t that expensive, surely they can afford one each ?

The point of all of this ? Well, what is considered to be obscure, eccentric, or just plain odd often depends on the perspective of the observer.

Take APEX authentication schemes for example.
Whilst not the default, Database Authentication is a scheme that is readily available. However, there doesn’t seem to be much written on this subject.

In contrast, there is a fair bit out there about APEX Custom Authentication. A lot of it would appear to re-enforce the idea that implementing security by hand is fraught with difficulty.
Just one example can be seen here.

If we were to approach this topic from the perspective of looking to migrate an elderly Oracle Forms application – where each user has their own database account – to APEX, we might be attracted to the idea of a Database Authentication Scheme and want to find out more.

What follows is my adventure through setting up such an Authentication Scheme.
Specifically, I’m going to cover :

  • Creating an APEX Database Authentication Scheme
  • Default behaviour
  • Adding a Verification Function to restrict access to a sub-set of Database Users
  • The vexed question of password resets

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