What’s that Skippy ? Mike’s doing too much typing to Instrument his PL/SQL code ?

Australian readers will be pleased to note that, despite the Antipodean flavour of this post, there will be no mention of The Ashes. It is a well known fact that Kangaroos are not interested in cricket.

My brother used to run a motorcycling school. One of his teaching techniques, out on the road was to say things like “What’s that Skippy ? Mike’s left his indicator on after the turn ?”
This is in reference to Skippy the Bush Kangaroo – a children’s TV program about the adventures of the eponymous hero with and uncanny knack of communicating life-threatening situations to humans, simply by means of a few tongue-clicking sounds.
My son spent quite a bit of time with his Uncle Steve.
Uncle Steve had quite a bit of influence on said child.
As a result, I’d often be on the receiving end of the distilled wisdom of Skippy…
“What’s that Skippy ? Dad’s left his keys on the table ?”
“What’s that Skippy ? Dad’s left the eight-ball over the pocket ?”
“What’s that Skippy ? Pocket money should be going up in line with inflation ?”

Over the years, this began to seep into my internal monologue… “What’s that Skippy ? I’ve forgotten to close the cursor ?”
It is with thanks to “Uncle Steve” and the help of a know-it-all marsupial with a unique linguistic talent that I will be looking at logging in PL/SQL applications and ways of…well…doing less typing to achieve the same level of instrumentation.
Specifically, what we’ll cover is :

  • Why logging in PL/SQL is special
  • Logging error messages by magic
  • Using OWA_UTIL.WHO_CALLED_ME
  • Using PL/SCOPE to figure out where you are
  • An neater way to log runtime parameter values
  • A logging package that incorporates these techniques

The ultimate combination of all of these changes may well not be ideal in every situation.
However, Skippy has tried to reduce the instrumentation code required to and absolute minimum. After all, kangaroos don’t like typing.

Like most of the Oracle world, Skippy and myself are still on 11gR2.
The sunny uplands of 12c remain, for the moment, the province of messing about in VirtualBox.
Therefore, we won’t be covering any of the 12c utilities ( e.g. UTL_CALL_STACK) here.

What’s that Skippy ? Oh yes, if you are considering a replacement for your existing logging sub-system, or even planning one from scratch, then you might want to check out the OraOpenSource Logger.
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PL/SQL Error Logging and Quantum Theory

When I started writing this post, it was going to be about something else.
This happens occasionally, I have an idea in my head and set to work.
Then I do some research – don’t look so surprised, I do look at the docs occasionally – and, as in this case, I find out that there’s rather more to the topic at hand than I first thought.
What follows is a re-visiting of some of the tools available in Oracle to help with error logging.
It includes stuff that either I’d forgotten or had never considered about some fairly common functions.
Before I dive in, I’d just like to say thanks to William Robertson, who first pointed out to me the similarity between PL/SQL error logging and Quantum Theory. If you’re still unclear of the connection between the two then consider, if you will, the Schrodinger’s Cat Thought Experiment.
It involves locking a cat in a box and possibly poisoning it.
Schrodinger postulates that the cat is both alive and dead…until you open the box to check.
The conclusions we can draw from this experiment are :

  • According to Quantum Theory, the act of observation changes the nature of the thing being observed
  • Schrodinger wasn’t a Cat person

Before going any further, I should point out that most of the stuff I know about Physics comes from watching Star Trek.

Moving on, I now invite you to consider…
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Keep your Database Tidy – making sure a file exists before DBMS_DATAPUMP makes a mess

There are times when I wonder whether DBMS_DATAPUMP isn’t modelled on your average teenager’s bedroom floor.
If you’ve ever tried to start an import by specifying a file that doesn’t exist ( or that DBMS_DATAPUMP can’t see) you’ll know what I mean.
The job fails, which is fair enough. However, DBMS_DATAPUMP then goes into a huff and refuses to “clean up it’s room”.
Deb has suggested that this sort of thing is also applicable to husbands.
Not that I have any idea of whose husband she’s talking about.
Anyway, you may consider it preferable to check that the export file you want to import from actually exists in the appropriate directory before risking the wrath of the temperamental datapump API.
This apparently simple check can get a bit interesting, especially if you’re on a Linux server…
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What’s in a Name ? USER_TAB_COLS and USER_TAB_COLUMNS are different.

My son and I are quite similar in some ways ( although he would vehemently dispute this).
Like me, he works in IT, in his case as a Support Engineer.
Like me, he’s called Mike (well, my Mum likes the name…and I can spell it).
Unlike me – as he would be quick to point out – he still has all his own hair.
These similarities have been known to cause confusion – I’m often contacted by recruitment agents with enticing offers to work on…some newfangled stuff I know nothing about, whilst he’s constantly being offered “exciting” Database related opportunities.

Similar confusion can arise when you’re delving into the Oracle Data Dictionary…

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Upgrading to APEX 5 on Oracle XE 11g

It’s a Bank Holiday weekend here in the UK.
This is usually a time for doing odd-jobs as a distraction from watching the rain come down.
This time around, rather than subject you to another lament about the Great British Summer ( or lack thereof), I’m going to go through the steps needed to install APEX5 on Oracle 11gXE.

Now, I know that the documentation doesn’t mention Express Edition.
I also know that the instructions that Oracle do have for upgrading APEX on XE haven’t yet been updated to account for APEX5.
I know this because I’ve spent a wet Bank Holiday finding this stuff out the hard way so that (hopefully), you don’t have to.
What I’m going to cover here is :

  • Pre-installation checks
  • Getting APEX5
  • Installation
  • Configuration

I would say “let’s get cracking before the sun comes out”, but that would only give us until around the second week in July…
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Migrating the XE Database Management Application to a new version of APEX

I must confess to a weakness when it comes to throwing stuff away.
This is particularly true of techie stuff.
Whilst I have occasionally cannibalised an old machine for parts, there is a regrettably large part of the garage reserved for “vintage” hardware that I might just need at some point.

I’ve recently added to this hoard. I’ve finally gone and got a replacement for my ageing netbook.
As part of the configuration of the new machine, I’ve installed Oracle XE again.

I’m now poised to attempt an upgrade to a shiny new version of APEX.

First of all though, if you are similarly keen to upgrade from the venerable APEX 4.0, which XE ships with, to something more modern, your hoarding instincts may kick-in when it comes to the default Database Management Application.

Once you upgrade APEX 4 to any subsequent version, this application “disappears”.
The functionality it offers is readily available through SQLDeveloper (or indeed, any of the major Oracle Database IDE’s).
Alternatively, it’s a fairly simple matter to come up with your own, improved version.

Not convinced ? Oh well, I suppose we’d better save it for re-deployment into your new APEX environment.

What I’m going to cover here is :

  • Backing up the default XE ADMIN application
  • Tweaking the APEX export file
  • Restoring the XE ADMIN application

I’ve tested this process against both APEX4.2 and APEX5.0 running on Oracle XE11g.
In the steps that follow, I’m assuming that you’re upgrading to APEX5.0.
The main difference here is the APEX owning schema.
For APEX4.2, the owner is APEX_040200, in APEX 5.0 it’s APEX_050000.
As the APEX upgrade takes place entirely within the database, the steps that follow are platform independent.

Incidentally, if you’re wondering exactly how you would upgrade XE11g to this APEX version, details will follow in my next post.

NOTE – I’m assuming here that you’re doing this on your own personal playground 11GXE database and have therefore not
worried too much about any security implications for some of the activities detailed below.

Right, let’s get started…
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Oracle XE 11g – Getting APEX to start when your database does

They say patience is a virtue. It’s one that I often get to exercise, through no fault of my own.
Usually trains are involved. Well, I say involved, what I mean is…er…late.
I know, I do go on about trains. It’s a peculiarly British trait.
This may be because the highest train fares in Europe somehow don’t quite add up to the finest train service.
We can debate the benefits of British Trains later – let’s face it we’ll have plenty of time whilst we’re waiting for one to turn up. For now, I want to concentrate on avoiding any further drain on my badly tried patience by persuading APEX that it should be available as soon as my Oracle XE database is…
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