Thursday, January 12, 2023

The Dichotomy of Oracle Forms and APEX

We live in a dichotomic world. It's always Heads or Tails? Left or Right? In or Out? So, isn't it refreshing to know that when it comes to Oracle Forms and Oracle APEX, the proper choice may just be....both.

I'm reminded of a presentation Insum's own, Francis Mignault, delivered a few years back at KScope. The session was titled "Oracle Forms and Oracle APEX - The Odd Couple". In it he did a great job laying out the entire gambit of options a Forms customer has. Everything from simply maintaining the status quo and continuing to support your on-premise Forms, to moving things to the Oracle Cloud, to extending Oracle Forms with APEX and finally rewriting everything in APEX thereby eliminating Forms completely. Today, I'm focused on the co-existence of Oracle Forms and APEX and why this odd couple, may not be so odd after all.

Here are three scenarios in which extending Forms with APEX makes great sense.

Upgrading the Presentation Layer

A common pain point of Forms is the look and feel. You could even say Forms has a face for radio.  Now that's fine for internal back office applications but for customer facing apps, expectations have never been higher. Users are demanding the same bells and whistles they enjoy on other websites. 

Providing Mobility 
A few years ago, the talk was "Mobile First" meaning applications should be developed with mobile functionality "top of mind". Although that talk has cooled a bit, if a mobile experience is needed say for field operations, Forms layouts will be too rigid and inflexible. A responsive layout using APEX is the answer.

Scratch, Dinero, Moolah
I'm always going to encourage customers to stay current and to stay within vendor support. The reality is sometimes companies decide against it for economic reasons. For example, upgrading to Forms 12c requires WebLogic Server. The increase in cost is significant. These companies are using APEX to deliver new functionality.

So there's no reason for Felix to kick Oscar out. Clearly they're better together. The same could be said for a different odd couple - Oracle Forms and Oracle APEX. They, too, are better together.

I'd encourage checking out Francis' original presentation here.

...our journey continues 

Monday, November 21, 2022

OCW Redux

I think this was number twelve for me. Hard to believe, really. But in a lot of ways, it's one of the most memorable because of the change in venue. 
The other eleven San Francisco ones seem to run together in my mind. Prior to the move to Vegas, we had OOW on auto-pilot. For 2022, all bets were off.

Well, for those unable to attend you missed a lot. Was it perfect? I wouldn't say that. But GAWD, it was great to get back to normal.

Here are my takes on Oracle Cloud World 2022.

 Most of the people I re-connected with at OCW I never saw that much in-person anyway, but this time around that handshake or that hug sure hit the spot. To me the conference was filled with an overwhelming sense of relief and of gratitude. We were able to put the past in the past.

APEX is in. For Insum, the sun rises and sets with APEX. So, you can imagine how we felt to have Uncle Larry include APEX in his keynote, "Solving the Most Complex Problems Across Industries"

And by golly, it wasn't just a passing mention. He discussed in detail how a low code tool like APEX provided the perfect blend of features and speed to build applications critical to combat COVID-19. APEX is here to stay.

ACE PROGRAM I hung out at the ACE Lounge. Felt I really needed to do that as Jen and Co. were kind enough to provide me a comp pass. Rubbed elbows with Oracle royalty at the ACE Dinner. It was a treat to have Oracle EVP, Juan Loaiza, present.  He even spent time at each table getting to know us and us getting to know him. Cool dude.

APEX MEET-UP One of the the things most missed regarding OpenWorld was the pilgrimage to Johnny Foley's Irish House. The APEX Dev Team and all the fan boys and fan girls would descend there on the Tuesday night for dueling pianos. Great times. Unforgettable times.

We wanted to continue that tradition so Tuesday night we stormed the nearby Yardhouse for fun and fellowship. The APEX Dev Team was well represented as well as others of us dependent on APEX to keep the lights burning. I got to say, Joel Kallman was severely missed but we soldier on and look to complete the work and the evangelism he started.

NAVIGATION The biggest negative issue I had was simply getting my bearings. The highways and byways of the Venetian meander a bit. While by the end of the week I pretty much had it down, the first day or two I travelled via the struggle bus.  A word of advice. Pay the difference and stay as close as you can to the Conference Center. I ponied up and stayed at the Palazzo, but the rest of my team stayed at the Linq. Nothing at all wrong with the accommodations at the Linq, but trust me your feet will thank you.

ATTENDANCE We'll never know the actual attendance. Even if a figure was provided, it would be met with extreme skepticism. I know how that game is played. One glaring thing I noticed was the exhibit hall aisles were as wide as the 405 but not near as busy. Food was surprisingly good. Much, much better than the Moscone sammich of past years.

You may have noticed I didn't review many sessions in the post. That's because in my current role I attend OCW to explore business opportunities and have as many B2B, B2C and B2O (Business to Oracle) conversations as I can.

So, should you plan on attending next year? Hells, yeah. Vegas has inked a long term agreement with Oracle to keep the conference right where it is. 
I expect attendance to slowly climb back to pre-pandemic levels. 

...our journey continues

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Thoughts on the Oracle ACE Program

Four years ago during ODTUG KScope14, I was designated as an Oracle ACE in the area of Database Development. Vikki Lira, who ran the ACE program at the time, surprised me on stage during the General Session. I could not have been more shocked.  I think my actual response was "You gotta be _hitting me!". While I wish at the time I'd been a touch more eloquent, I'm still not over the shock and remain indebted to Tim Gorman (and anyone else who had a part in it).

Truth is, while I really appreciated the recognition, I had a serious case of survivors guilt. Why me when there are thousands of qualified Oracle professionals more deserving?? I mentioned it to Deborah Lilly and she said something that has stuck with me ever since. She said "It's not what you know, it's what you share"
In ten words or less she made me feel deserving. She made me feel like I belonged.

Did Groucho Get it Right??

We've all heard the famous quote from Groucho Marx.

"I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member"
                                                                             Groucho Marx

Funny enough, I found a notable Oracle personality who had this to say about the ACE program.

"By and large, they tend to be people with low self-esteem who can be easily flattered into promoting Oracle for free.  These ACE Directors are sometimes "legends in  own minds" and they are the perfect fodder for this unpaid army of Oracle evangelists."

Really?? I know everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Since I'm entitled to one too, let me say I couldn't disagree more with that assessment of Oracle ACEs. That doesn't describe me, I assure you. Trust the amount of Oracle gear, free meals, etc. is nowhere near worth us prostituting ourselves as was contended. We do it because we've bought into the sense of community. We view it as a way to "pay it forward".

Yea, we all have different personalities. We all have different Oracle skillsets. Some of us are more introverted...more extroverted. But the resulting nerd gumbo is really something to behold. I've found the ACE community to be welcoming and I look forward to the social times Jennifer and Lori carve out for us at the various conferences.

What's It All Mean Really?

I guess it means different things to different people. Anyone who tells you they don't care about recognition isn't, in my opinion, being entirely honest. Recognition taps into basic human emotions. Some crave it more than others, but we all need it at some level.

Receiving Your Oracle ACE Should Be The Beginning

It's always been my understanding that the "Oracle ACE is recognition for past deeds and accomplishments, while Oracle ACE Director is recognition for what you will do in the future." I want to challenge that. Receiving your Oracle ACE should in no way be viewed as reaching any mountaintop. Even if you don't strive for Oracle ACE Director, you should continue to do those things that brought you the ACE in the first place.

I will close by encouraging those who aspire to be part of the ACE program to not be dissuaded. Always remember... it's not what you know, it's what you share.

...our journey continues

Friday, November 3, 2017

What Color is YOUR Tractor?

Martin Widlake, a giant in the Oracle Community, tweeted something to the effect that he had purchased a lawn tractor. In fact, here's the actual tweet...

To which I responded..."it's how well you mow fast"

...which referenced the John Deere series of commercials at the time which professed "It's not how fast you's how well you mow fast". I thought the commercials were hilarious. Decide for yourself.

Notice, my reply never mentioned John Deere...not a single hash tag..not even the entire quote from the commercial. So you can imagine my surprise when I almost immediately received a request to DM @JohnDeere. What? Are they going to make me take down the tweet? You've gotta be kidding. C'mon, really?? 

Nope, they just wanted to show their appreciation. 

And in the mail came this...

WOW! I know it was just a T-shirt, but I was blown away because it was so unexpected and unsolicited. I wasn't trying to get on their radar or curry favor. I was just trying to be a wise guy on Twitter. 

One thing is certain, you can guess the color of my next tractor....all for the price of a t-shirt.

...our journey continues.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Thoughts around the ODTUG Board Election

ODTUG Board Elections are in full swing. Nine qualified persons running for five open seats.  Among the nine are three incumbents. There's a very real incumbent advantage. I should know. I was the beneficiary on multiple occasions. But nine doesn't go into five. Something's gotta give.

During my own time on the ODTUG Board I resisted endorsing others. In private I would voice my opinion, but publicly, not so much. Now that I'm no longer on the Board, I'd like to speak on behalf of two individuals in particular. Peter Koutroubis and Eric Helmer. Why am I singling out these two when I'm friends with everyone in the field? Simple. They came and asked me. I could've declined, but I do think they each have what it takes to serve with distinction. It was an easy decision for me to endorse.

I've known Peter for a few years now. We share a close friendship. He's been very giving of his time to help me professionally and for that I'm grateful. Looking at his background I expect certain things if he were elected. You see, Peter served in the U.S. military. If elected, I expect the ODTUG trains to run on time. I expect order and organization. I expect he'd be one on the Board that you could assign a task to, then forget about it...knowing that he'll take care of it. A lot of time spent on the Board is in the area of planning and I feel that's a place he'll excel. I get a sense, too, that KScope is the highlight of his year where you actually come in contact with the membership. Like me, Peter's positively a people person. (say that three times fast)

Eric has run for the Board on a few occasions now, but I think this year may be his time. A big reason is that ODTUG's EPM membership numbers continue to grow. Since one must be a paid member to vote, he's been behind the eight ball in past elections. This year his chances are better than ever. Please take a minute to visit You can see he's put a ton of effort into the site. If he brings this much effort and focus to the Board, he'll make a helluva Director. In talking with Eric, he made it clear to me that he intends to represent the entire membership not just the EPM/BI communities. That's music to my ears.

In closing, I'd like to thank all those in the running for continuing to support our fantastic organization. To Peter and Eric, best of luck to you both. I'm happy to call you my friends and extremely proud to pledge my support.

...our journey continues

Friday, October 13, 2017

It's What You Do When You Do What We Do

It's late evening on August 30th, 2017. After dropping some four feet of rain on the Houston area, Hurricane Harvey takes aim at the upper Texas Gulf Coast - namely the town of Port Arthur. I grew up in nearby Orange and later lived and worked in Port Arthur. Growing up we'd never been struck by any significant hurricanes. Rita, and later Ike, dramatically changed that experience. Hurricanes now had the area's full attention.

Based on the previous four days, it was clear that the real threat from Harvey was going to be the rising water due to torrential rains and less the damaging winds and storm surge. In fact in less than twenty-four hours, Interstate 10 became unrecognizable.

Monitoring Twitter, I began to see tweets from Port Arthur residents begging for rescue.

One after the other...I couldn't believe it. It was darkness...the elderly unable to escape without assistance....Haley Davis, the expectant mother standing in waist deep water...and snakes...SNAKES!

I had to do something, but in every way powerless to take any real action. My neighborhood was cut-off. All roads to FM 1093 (including FM 1093 itself) were impassable. So I couldn't even leave my neighborhood, much less navigate the hundred plus miles to Port Arthur.

I definitely felt a call to action. True, I could simply re-tweet these as they come across, but a comprehensive view is what was lacking. I needed a way to display these tweets on a map allowing rescuers to hit entire streets or neighborhoods. Yes, a map is what was needed.

So, I did what any Oracle Nerd would do... I went to IFTTT and found an applet to push Tweets to a Google Sheet that matched the search term "Port Arthur". (For those unfamiliar with IFTTT - IfThisThenThat), it allows you to chain actions together that perhaps otherwise you'd be forced to perform manually.)

Another benefit for me in using IFTTT was that I didn't need to apply for or utilize a Twitter API key. I didn't have time to waste!

Next I ran those results against a regular expression that identified street addresses.

WHERE REGEXP_LIKE (v_string, '\d+ (\w+) (st|dr|blvd|pl|ave|road|rd|court|ct|cir)','i')

Not perfect, but I needed something out in a hurry. Lives were in the balance.

From there, I created a Custom Google Map. No need to geocode the addresses. Google Maps does that automatically.

The results painted a pretty clear picture of what parts of Port Arthur were most in need. I pushed it out to the local authorities and the Cajun Navy

Best of all the Google Map embedded in the tweet is fully functioning. Zoom in. Zoom out. Call-outs are all available as evidenced here

The entire effort took less than an hour.
Pretty geeky? Yeah, but it's what you do when you do what we do.

I have no way of knowing whether my actions contributed to any rescues. I'll probably never know. I do know the rescuers, as a result, were provided better data in which to do their jobs. That's enough for me.

...our journey continues

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Thanks, LISTAGG. I owe ya one.

My son is in Boy Scouts and their fundraising campaign involves the placement of U.S. Flags on certain holidays. In it's infancy it was all handled via spreadsheets. You can do that when you're only talking a limited number of flags.

I, of course, wrote an APEX app for it.

It's what you do when you do what we do.

Since this wasn't a paid gig, I re-purposed the "Sample Database App". Everything was coming along. The desktop functionality was in place and looking grand. The mobile functionality one needed in the field was taking shape. I got to a mobile list view that needed to list the address and under it the details of the individual flags on that property....could be one...could be many. Not difficult but I wanted an elegant solution that wouldn't add rows to my list view.

Let's look briefly at the source code...

   select f.flag_id,

     from customers c,
          flags f
    where c.customer_id = f.customer_id

Nothing to get excited about here.

Looking at the Advanced Formatting options for the List View...

Hmm. This could potentially add blank lines. What I really needed to do is aggregate the list of flags for that property. What I really need is something like this...

Enter LISTAGG. I assume we've all used listagg to do this very thing but I didn't want the result to simply be a concatenated string of "Flag1, Flag2, Flag3, FlagN"...or did I?  A few well placed P's here and there and I got exactly what I wanted.

and here's the big reveal..."Move that Bus!"

Exactly what I needed. LISTAGG provided me a way, for display purposes, to effectively pivot the data. The takeaway here is don't rule out things like LISTAGG because at first glance they don't appear to deliver what you need. In this case the concatenated string I received just needed a little TLC.

...our journey continues