IDUG India highlights

30 August 2008 » DB2, IBM, WebSphere

I just returned from two weeks in Bengaluru (Bangalore). The trip was quite productive, as I was able to work with my team on a complex Eclipse RCP/Apache Derby application in person, and solidify the two most important pillars of an extended team development effort; communication and collaboration.

Since I worked US Eastern time while in India – late afternoon to late evening weekdays – I also had a chance to attend the IDUG 2008 India Forum in the early part of the day Friday and all day Saturday.

Much like the on site face time with my development team, this conference provided an excellent opportunity to interact with DB2 experts and to put all the new Information Management technologies and products into a meaningful context.

Of particular relevance to my day job, the forum clarified where DB2 fits into the larger WebSphere, Web 2.0, and SOA picture. I was able to pick up some clever ideas for the IBM Press Room migration to DB2 9.5 next spring.

A few highlights and lessons learned from the conference:

  • Attending Curt Cotner’s keynote on the new IBM Data Studio tool and pureQuery technology. This Eclipse-based tool has a lot of potential as a standalone application development platform, or plug-in to my existing Rational Software Architect setup. Using pureQuery to improve performance and ease root cause analysis for WebSphere and DB2 apps was impressive. I also had a chance to meet Curt and chat with him briefly about PHP Web application frameworks and drivers.
  • Hearing from Leon Katsnelson about how DB2 fits into the larger SOA picture, with two very innovative case studies. One example in particular about managing volatile data in DB2 – such as currency rates and weather conditions – using a Java stored procedure to make a Web services call was very enlightening.
  • Finally getting my head around REST. The past weeks have featured a storm of misunderstanding about SOAP and RESTful Web services, sparked by a comment made by Damien Katz. Following the conversations there helped me understand the pros and cons of each philosophy, and attending a few sessions at the conference helped solidify the fundamental differences in approach to SOA.
  • Reminding myself to look into the Web 2.0 Starter Toolkit for IBM DB2. There seems to be some really cool sample applications and monitoring tools in there.
  • Getting a primer on Ruby as a language and seeing a live demo of Ruby on Rails as a framework. I’m not planning to jump ship anytime soon, but there are tons of ideas in there that can be fed back into the architectures I develop in my day job.
  • Thanks to Matthias Nicola, who was kind enough to copy his XQuery & SQL/XML cheatsheet onto a pen drive for me, I was able to play around with pureXML on my local copy of DB2.
  • Finally figuring out the difference between Data Studio and Data Studio Developer. The former is the free tool, the latter is the kit that can be licensed from IBM for a fee and includes all the cool pureQuery stuff.
  • Taking advantage of the opportunity for a free shot at the DB2 9 Application Developer exam (I passed!) and shoring up my cursor usage and trace analysis skills through some pre-test cramming.

So, all in all a great business trip and excellent conference. Kudos to the conference organizers, IDUG, and the presenters.

Trip to Bengaluru

16 July 2008 » DB2, Photos, Travel

I just confirmed my trip to southern India. I’ll be in Bengaluru (Bangalore) for about 2 weeks. It’s my first trip to Asia, so I’m really looking forward to it.

The preparations for this trip have been more complex than any other overseas trip I’ve taken. The good new is that once the visa paperwork and vaccinations are complete, the barriers to travel to the region will be much lower in the future.

My trip will finish up the second week of August, which coincides with India’s Independence Day. Apparently there’s a semi-annual botanical show at Lal Bagh that day and for some reason my camera is really good at taking pictures of flowers. :), so there’s always that.

But I’d love to know what else is recommended to do that Friday the 15th, or on the weekends in general. Side trips to Ooty and Kodaikanal have been recommended. Other hints, tips?

Update: Due to the Lufthansa strike, I pushed my trip back one week, and will now be able to attend the IDUG India Forum (Friday morning and all day Saturday) which is taking place right next to my hotel. That looks to be a great opportunity to hear from Curt Cotner and several other DB2 experts. Good stuff.

Up and Running with DB2 on Linux

16 July 2008 » DB2, IBM, PHP, Writing

The second edition of “Up and Running with DB2 on Linux” was published in June. This IBM Redbook gives readers the latest information they need to exploit DB2 9.5 for Linux.

I performed a technical review of this book, recommending updates here and there to the introductory section and the chapter on using the new Eclipse-based IBM Data Studio tool. I also provided the short section on using DB2 with PHP in chapter 8.

The editor took my suggestion to include a link to planetdb2.com in the online resources list, to give readers a way to keep on top of day-to-day news about DB2 from the experts who blog about it.

The entire review process was a great way to learn about the latest developments in the DB2 for Linux world. I hope the book provides you with the same insight.

Have a look and submit your feedback to help improve the next edition.

Begun, the data server proxy wars have

25 March 2008 » DB2, IBM, MySQL, New York PHP, PHP, PostgreSQL

One week with the Drobo on Linux

16 March 2008 » Drobo, Linux, System administration

I’ve been in the market for a media storage and/or backup device for my home network for some time now.

I don’t have any more free bays in my server, so adding space there wasn’t an option. Reusing any of the spare machines cluttering up the basement didn’t make much sense either, from a power or capacity point of view.

I had considered a few consumer network attached storage devices, but nothing really felt right for my needs; an SSH interface for nightly rsync backups, relatively easy setup, and future expandability.

Fortunately, I bounced the idea off of my gadget-savvy co-worker Kashif. He pointed me to a product called Drobo.

At first, it didn’t seem to fit in with what I wanted to do, primarily networkability and an SSH interface. But after watching the demo, I was sold. I was going to make it work somehow.

Drobo is intended to plug into your Mac or PC as an external USB drive. To your computer, it looks like any other external storage device, but while it just appears a chunk of capacity, Drobo uses a hot-swappable pseudo-RAID approach internally to protect data and provide extreme flexibility for future expansion.

That said, Drobo only officially works with Mac and PC. You can format it in their mutually incompatible filesystem formats; HFS+ and NTFS respectively, or share it between platforms with the old FAT32 standard.

To mount it under Linux, I had to choose to use either FAT32, NTFS-3G on FUSE, or ext3. In order to get the ext3 support, you’re supposed to use the DroboShare, which costs an extra $200.

Instead, I used that money to get two 500GB hard drives and approached ext3 support a different way. I connected the Drobo to my Linux server and formatted it as I had for the new drive I mounted internally last year.

This meant that the storage isn’t directly accessible on the network, but I could easily share it out via the server. This also makes backups from the server faster.

Following are the steps I took:

  • Unbox the Drobo and put in two drives from Newegg. (Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD5000AAKS 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive – OEM).
  • Plugged it into my Windows XP machine to check for firmware updates, not to format the drive. There were none so I could have skipped the step.
  • Plugged it into my CentOS 4.6 Linux server, then ran lshw to find the device name (/dev/sdc).
  • Entered the following commands to format the drives and mount the Drobo at startup:
    [code lang=”bash”]
    [root@192.168.1.1]# /sbin/mke2fs -j -i 262144 -L Drobo -m 0 -O sparse_super,^resize_inode -q /dev/sdc
    [root@192.168.1.1]# mkdir /drobo
    [root@192.168.1.1]# mount -t ext3 /dev/sdc /drobo
    [root@192.168.1.1]# vi /etc/fstab
    /dev/sdc /drobo ext3 defaults 0 0
    [/code]
  • Reboot and chown’d the filesystem to my rsync user name.

Everything seems to work well for now, but I’ll post an update when I add capacity later this year.

I suspect I’ll have to make some changes in the future, but for easily adding expandable protected storage to a home Linux server the Drobo is a highly recommended option.

Another tip from Kashif: use the promo code “Cali” when checking out at drobostore.com to save $50.

Charlotte, North Carolina

16 March 2008 » DB2, IBM, Photos, Travel

I spent ten days on business in Charlotte, North Carolina in the middle of February. The city and its metropolitan area were much larger than I had expected.

The airport’s big, the IBM complex is massive (it used to be the home of 6,000 manufacturing jobs), and the city really does have a relative importance I hadn’t realized (forgive my Northeastern, non-finance sector prejudices). On top of that it’s growing fast.

I found out later that had I stuck around a few more days I could have stopped by the SIRDUG meeting and had a chance to hear from DB2 gurus Robert Catterall and Roger Sanders at the same facility. Damn.

I didn’t have much time to see the sights, but I did grab some not-so spectacular pictures of downtown.

One of the highlights was a Saturday afternoon trip to the outskirts for some of the best barbecue I’ve ever had, at a biker bar called Mac’s.

Perhaps the most incredible part of the trip was that not one, but two places sold Genny Cream Ale by the bottle. The importance of this can not be overstated, though I don’t have time to go into the details just yet…

Mashups from IBM at NYPHP in January

10 January 2008 » DB2, IBM, New York PHP, PHP, Zend

On Tuesday, January 22nd, Dan Gisolfi will talk about the latest PHP-based technologies from IBM for developing Web 2.0 mashups at New York PHP.

Centered around the concept of “situational applications,” IBM’s work with mashups targets a growing trend in Web site development.

Applications are increasingly built by end users to meet their particular needs at a particular time without the time and expense of a traditional software development process.

A recent paper in the IBM Systems Journal describes the new approach in great detail.

Situational applications are created rapidly by teams or individuals who best understand the business need, but without the overhead and formality of traditional information technology (IT) methods.

Understandably, traditional PHP developers might be wary of this new technology; as a general contractor would be if a Home Depot opened around the corner.

Instead, IT specialists should embrace the model as a foothold for PHP in the enterprise. To that end, Dan Gisolfi will:

  • Demo IBM’s Mashup Starter Kit (which includes IBM Mashup Hub and QEDWiki).
  • Highlight best practices for designing and assembling data-driven mashups.
  • Discuss IBM’s collaboration with Zend and ProgrammableWeb to bring mashups to the enterprise.

As always, New York PHP meetings are free and open to the public, but you must RSVP by 3pm on Monday, January 21st.

Log Buffer #78: A Carnival of the Vanities for DBAs

04 January 2008 » DB2, IBM, MySQL, PHP, System administration, XML

Happy new year everyone! This week I’m honored to host the 78th edition of Log Buffer, the weekly roundup of database blogs.

A special thanks goes to Dave Edwards of the Pythian Group for the opportunity to start the year right by catching up on the latest developments around the database world. I’ve been blissfully out of the loop planning a wedding, relaxing on the honeymoon, and spending time with family. :)

About this week’s news
Many folks were also off celebrating the holidays (or recovering from New Year’s celebrations), so it’s been a quiet week.

Without an earth-shattering announcement to stir up controversy, there’s been a trend towards end-of-year summaries, predictions for the new year, and time to jot down tips or otherwise reflect on projects that scratch the author’s itch.

I’m an IBM Web application developer – not a database administrator per se – so this week’s edition will offer my biased take on the news. I hope you enjoy anyway. :)

DB2 and Informix
First up, Chris Eaton encourages us to have a look at (and get involved with) the new PHP-based DB2 Monitoring Console project at SourceForge.

The DB2MC aims be the long awaited Web-based console for managing DB2 instances and databases, merging the role of the standalone Control Center shipped with DB2 and the simplified approach to database administration taken by the popular phpMyAdmin project favored by many MySQL shops.

Over at DB2 Magazine, Scott Hayes of DBI asserts that “performing excessive and unnecessary sorts is the number two performance killer in most databases” on the Linux, Unix, and Windows platform. Fortunately, he offers a few tips for neutralizing this elusive killer.

On the mainframe, Robert Catterall provides some tips for maximizing performance when accessing data by tweaking the size of blocks fetched over the network from DB2 z/OS.

Further good news for DB2 customers is that the always popular “Recommended reading lists” for database administration and application development at IBM developerWorks have been updated for v9.

On the Informix platform, the latest issue of the International Informix Users Group (IIUG) Insider has been published, which announces that registration for the IIUG Informix conference is open, announces board elections (man, those middle American states have a lot of electoral clout) and reflects on the year marked by the release of IDS 11 at mid-year.

MySQL
Over at The Open Road, CNET blogger Matt Asay reveals MySQL CEO MÃ¥rten Mickos’ reflections on 2007. The widespread adoption of several editions of MySQL 5 was a highlight this year, along with advancements in scale-out features such as replication, partitioning, load-balancing, and caching.

Mickos notes that MySQL continues to build on its strength as a Web database and expand into corporations to complement instead of compete with existing proprietary platforms such as Oracle.

In other integration news, there has been some traction on the planned DB2 storage engine and MySQL port to i5/OS. An IBM Redbook will be published by the end of the month.

Moving down to the bare metal, Mark Robson has decided to put down an explanation for the many users who ask him about the pitfalls of running out of address space (not memory itself) on 32-bit MySQL installations.

Short answer: Spring for a 64-bit machine and stock plenty of RAM, regardless of the underlying operating system. :)

PostgreSQL
Andrew Dunstan offers up source for a conditional update trigger that intercepts modifications if their values don’t differ from what’s already in the database. This filter can save the expense incurred by unnecessary index updates.

Leo Hsu and Regina Obe clarify PostgreSQL’s support for stored procedures (or lack thereof) for a user over at the Postgres OnLine Journal.

They retort; “So the question is, is there any reason for PostgreSQL to support bona fide stored procedures aside from the obvious To be more compatible with other databases and not have to answer the philosophical question, But you really don’t support stored procedures?” Touché, grasshopper.

Robby Russell points us to the call for papers at PGCon 2008, and is himself interested in seeing a presentation relevant to Ruby on Rails Web app developers.

Oracle
Howard Rogers provides a hefty PDF of the courseware he once used to teach a 5 day bootcamp – complete with exercises, slides and explanatory notes on “everything there is to know about Oracle.” But does not that mean the oracle also knows everything about Howard? Think about it.

The seventy megabyte download targets 9i and has been partially updated for 10g, but the underlying themes should still be relevant for 11g.

Richard Foote provides details another subtle gotcha in his series on the difference between unique and non-unique indexes.

A befuddled Steven Karam details his root cause analysis of a problem upgrading Oracle 10 across x86 platforms. He found the solution despite a none-too-helpful error message. He concludes with a suggestion to Oracle for a better way to aid those who run into a similar problem…

Matt Topper announced a new way to keep up with Oracle news, a link-sharing site called Ora-Click.com. For those groaning “not another social network for geeks,” this is a subject specific site and looks quite slick. I can see this model being emulated by other technology or product knowledge domains.

Eddie Awad is already on board with the Ora-Click idea and has offered a few suggestions for making it even more useful.

SQL Server
There have been quite a few posts about learning the new features of SQL Server 2008 ahead of its hotly anticipated February release.

SSQA.net provides us with a pointer to virtual training courses that Microsoft is offering through the end of January ahead of the 2008 general release. This ten part Web seminar series covers topics ranging from high availability to manageability, security, business intelligence, and reporting.

Bob Beauchemin has a trio of tips for using the new features of SQL Server 2008. There are some tips on plan guidance, as well as a pointer on using row constructors.

Thrudb
With all the buzz surrounding SimpleDB in December, Ilya Grigorik, CTO of Igvita details Jake Luciani‘s “faster, cheaper alternative” to Amazon’s offering. So far the reviews are positive. If you’re into document-based databases or S3 storage, this is worth a look.

CouchDB
Anant Jhingran and Sam Ruby have announced that Damien Katz of CouchDB will join IBM over in Information Management. In addition, CouchDB will be donated to the Apache Software Foundation as a top level project.

ObjectStore
Dan Weinreb, co-founder of Object Design which developed ObjectStore, carries on the backlash against Michael Stonebraker with a detailed account of how object-oriented database technology did indeed succeed from both a business and technical perspective.

In a follow-on post the same day, Weinreb delves into more detail about the lessons learned when creating ObjectStore.

In the words of the great General Kenobi, “Luke, you will find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.”

 

And that wraps it up for this week’s Log Buffer. I hope you have a good time reading, but make sure you don’t spend all weekend in front of the computer, there’s plenty of good old analog wild card action to follow. Go Giants!

Have a great 2008!

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